In resurrecting the Integra name, Acura opened the door for enthusiasts to draw comparisons between the new hatchback and its storied predecessors. And while Negative Nancies continue to focus on the fact that the new car isn’t a direct successor to the high-performance, low-volume Type R, the truth is, the 2023 Integra is exactly what it should be.
The Integra shares most of its framework with the Honda Civic Si, and this commonality totally tracks based on Acura’s history. Integras have always been gussied-up Civics, and the new car is essentially an Si hatchback — something Honda doesn’t offer — with a higher level of standard equipment and more sophisticated road manners. More importantly, the 2023 Integra is a significantly more appealing entry point into the Acura lineup than the dumpy old ILX.
Because it shares its underpinnings with the Civic Si, the Integra uses a 1.5-liter turbo I4 engine, making the same 200 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque as the Honda. Unlike the Si, the Integra comes standard with a continuously variable automatic transmission, but a six-speed manual carries over, as well. Weirdly, you can only get the stick on the top-trim Integra A-Spec with Technology Package, but Acura says more than half of all Integra preorders are optioned this way, so that’s good news.
The CVT surely opens the Integra up to a wider range of customers than the manual-only Civic Si, though it obviously kills some of the Acura’s fun factor. I will say, the Integra would be a great car for first-time manual drivers. The light clutch has a clear take-up point and the stick itself has short throws with solid engagement. Like the Si, the Integra also comes standard with automatic rev-matching, which makes the manual far more forgiving (and easier) to use while driving in the city or during stop-and-go traffic. Yes, you can turn this off, but I never want to. Heavy Los Angeles traffic is a sort of litmus test to the daily livability of a stick-shift, and the Integra’s is a fatigue-free experience.
Regardless of transmission, the Integra’s A-Spec/Tech trim comes with adaptive dampers, which could explain why Honda removed these from the Civic Si. (Gotta leave a few unique features for the Acura, right?) The Integra’s Comfort and Normal settings deliver a cushier ride than the Civic, while Sport stiffens the dampers appreciably, for taut cornering characteristics without unnecessary harshness.
The Integra’s hefty steering is a joy to use; it’s quick to respond and there’s plenty of feedback about the amount of grip available at road level. The base car rides on 17-inch wheels while A-Spec and A-Spec/Tech models get 18s with 235/40 Continental ProContact all-season tires, and larger 19s are available through Acura’s accessory catalog. However, you can’t buy an Integra with higher-performance tires from the factory, which is kind of odd, especially considering Honda will sell you a Civic Si with Eagle F1 summer tires for a mere $200 upcharge.
No matter the trim, Acura packs the Integra with active and passive safety technologies, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning and more. However, the stick-shift doesn’t allow for low-speed use of the adaptive cruise control, meaning Acura’s Traffic Jam Assist function is a no-go on manual A-Spec/Tech cars.
On the other hand, A-Spec/Tech models come with a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system, running a carryover version of the software in the Civic Si. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as are USB-A and USB-C ports and a charging pad. Base and regular A-Spec Integras downgrade to a 7-inch touchscreen with wired smartphone compatibility, but no matter the model, you’ll find a 10.2-inch digital gauge cluster, though the colors and graphics are somewhat lackluster compared to systems from rival luxury brands. (Audi Virtual Cockpit for the win.)
The Integra’s cabin is pretty much a carbon copy of the Civic’s, just with a wider range of colors and slightly more premium materials. My A-Spec/Tech tester has leatherette seats with microsuede inserts, though only the front chairs get this fabric flourish, which makes the rear bench look decidedly low-rent by comparison. Across the board, the Integra comes with heated front seats, another curious Civic Si omission, again perhaps to make the Acura seem more upscale.
Thanks to the hatchback body style, the Integra is far more cargo-functional than the sedan-only Civic Si, with 24.3 cubic feet of space in the trunk. You can fold the rear seats flat for additional storage, but the load-in height above the rear bumper is pretty high, making it tough to load bulky items. Boxier competitors like the Volkswagen Golf GTI are much easier to pack.
Which brings me to a quick soap box complaint: Where’s the rear wiper? Acura tells me the Integra’s fastback design is slick enough that air moving over the roof will clear water off the glass while driving. But that doesn’t help me when I want to wipe away morning dew or overnight rain when backing out of my driveway. Whatever added drag a wiper would cause surely wouldn’t make that meaningful of an impact on styling or fuel economy. The Honda Civic hatchback has a rear wiper, after all.
The base Integra starts at $31,895 including $1,095 for destination, while a top-tier A-Spec/Tech costs $36,895 whether you choose the CVT or manual transmission. That’s a roughly $3,000 savings compared to a loaded Volkswagen Golf GTI, which is both more comfortable and more entertaining, and it’s thousands less than cars like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, though those rivals are more luxurious inside.
But while the Integra looks like a great value compared to other luxury compacts, the tougher comparison is once again the Civic Si. Even with all of the A-Spec/Tech trim’s added fanciness and functionality, I’m not sure it’s worth an $8,000 jump over an Si with summer tires. And if you aren’t looking at the Acura from a performance aspect, it’s hard to ignore the nicely appointed Civic Sport Touring hatchback ($31,145 including destination) or even a turbocharged Mazda3 ($32,915) as alternatives to the base and midrange Integra.
Still, the 2023 Integra is a great car. It has a solid powertrain, good road manners, lots of tech and the peace of mind that comes with Honda/Acura’s reputation for great build quality and overall longevity. It’s a fitting representation of what prior Integras always were — even if the inevitable hi-po Type S is the one we’ll undoubtedly covet in the future.