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The Acura Integra has made a return for the 2023 model year embarking on a new journey for the Acura brand to win over those seeking an entry-level luxury sedan/4-door hatchback, one that can be had with a 6-speed manual transmission, or a traditional setup using a variation of an automatic.
I vividly remember the last Acura Integra before they introduced the RSX and later did away with the sport compact vehicle. It was an enthusiast vehicle through and through, and it reached into other demographics as an entry-level luxury sport compact that titillated the senses that many people didn’t realize they had. To some, the Integra was a better Honda Civic for those who sought more power and a few extra amenities, or approach more towards luxury. Now, the Integra makes its return and upon initial conception, some thought Acura should have gone a different direction. However, after spending a week with the new Integra in the top A-Spec trim equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission, I mostly understand the task at hand and think Acura has done justice for the nameplate.
After driving the new 2022 Honda Civic Si I can’t help but compare the new Integra A-Spec Manual because it utilizes essentially the same drivetrain. With such, the Integra makes do with 200 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque from the same 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Power is sent to the front wheels through a Helical limited-slip differential and the joy of the Integra revolves around having the option of a 6-speed manual transmission, which is exclusive to the A-Spec trim and comes with the Technology package.
The new Acura Integra offers two transmissions, either a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) or the 6-speed manual. I can only imagine that the CVT in the Integra doesn’t do it much justice for performance and is not nearly as fun as rowing your own gears with the 6-speed manual. Moreover, the level of performance of the manual surpasses the CVT and is ultimately the better choice for those looking for a fun experience, or if you’re a lighthearted enthusiast. There’s even a rev-matching feature that perfectly blips the throttle upon downshifts eliminating the need to learn the art of heel-and-toe shifting.
Zero to 60 mph takes place in just 7.2 seconds if you are up to the task of performing nearly flawless shifting at the 6,500 rpm redline to get every bit of power out of the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which is fun and brings back some of that passion found in the last generation Integra and RSX. Fundamentally, if you want the Integra to “perform” or be fun, you’re going to want to peg that RPM gauge near the 6,500-rpm fuel cutoff, like you would in Integra’s of past – especially the GS-R or Type R that had that trick VTEC cam switchover at higher RPMs – remember those?
Out on the road, the Integra A-Spec Manual is zippy enough for a little bit of fun, and at the same time, it keeps you out of trouble because it’s one of those vehicles that’s easy to push near its limits without dire consequences. It nearly fits the idea of being more fun to drive a slow car fast, than it is to drive a fast car slow. You may not win many races, but you’ll enjoy the journey in one of the very last manual-transmission luxury vehicles around.
The ride quality is good and better than you find in the Civic Si, which I attribute to the Integra A-Spec having three-mode (comfort, normal, sport) adaptive dampers and a bit more weight to carry around. The three drive modes, comfort, normal, and sport, only subtlety change the damper’s rebound firmness among adding a bit of weight to the steering and advance the throttle position a bit. Essentially, there is a fourth drive mode, the Individual setting that allows you to customize the dampers, steering effort, and engine/throttle response to your liking along with disabling the annoying start/stop feature.
In any mode, the steering is nicely weighted but not as communicative as I would have hoped. There’s a bit of playfulness in having such a sweet close-ratio manual transmission, which Honda/Acura is known to do well with short, precise throws. In the Integra A-Spec the 6-speed manual is mostly foolproof for competent drivers who are up to the task of rowing gears. Clutch engagement is just right and more on the light side allowing a short learning curve for where it bites down. Those times when you want to break the front wheels loose the Integra will oblige but feels as if it doesn’t allow fully disabling traction and stability control when you turn in. Dumping the clutch in a straight line, the front tires will spin with no torque steer but conduct a familiar wheel hop at times, again, giving me that nostalgic feeling I remember in Integras of the past.
The Integra is mostly as responsive as the Civic Si but feels a bit softer in its approach, which some of that trait can be traced to the 18-inch Continental ContiProContact 235/40R-18 tires and it being a bit plusher in its overall execution – which is expected in an Acura. On my 2022 Honda Civic Si test vehicle, I had the Goodyear Eagle F1 summer high-performance tires option, which would exhibit a different driving characteristic that has a sportier dynamic over the Integra’s all-season rubber.
The new 2023 Acura Integra with the CVT gets decent gas mileage with the EPA estimates of 30 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. With the 6-speed manual, those figures decline quite a bit to the estimates of 26 mpg city and 36 mpg highway.
Inside of the new 2023 Acura Integra is a cabin that I think takes what is in the Honda Civic Si, which isn’t a bad place to start, and elevates it a bit in the Integra A-Spec trim with the sporty heated faux-leather w/microsuede insert front power-adjusted seats (12-way power driver’s seat, 4-way power passenger’s seat). There are also the highlights of a color heads-up display, fully digital 10.2-inch driver’s gauge cluster, a 9-inch infotainment touchscreen display, rain-sensing wipers, automatic dual-zone climate control, automatic high-beam Jewel Eye LED headlights, LED foglights, Ambient LED lighting, LED taillights, Qi Wireless charging pad, Wi-Fi hotpsot capability, and a decent-sounding 16-speaker ELS Studio 3D audio system.
The interior of the Integra is properly premium and fits the mold of what you find in new Acura vehicles. The rear seating area is surprisingly roomy except for the headroom that’s greatly cut down from the sloping roof line where someone that’s 6-foot tall will not be able to sit back there. The sloping angle of the rear is aggressive which cuts down on rearward visibility out of the auto-dimming review mirror.
There are plenty of active safety features as you expect in the new Acura Integra including the standard emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and the addition of front and rear parking sensors in the A-Spec trim.
Many will wonder if the 2023 Acura Integra is worth the premium over the Honda Civic Si considering them sharing a drivetrain. With the Integra in the top-level A-Spec trim costing $37,395 out the door for my test vehicle, you’re looking at almost an $8,000 premium. Is it worth it? Sure, only if you’re the one who wants the luxury appeal, Acura brand recognition, and quite a few extra amenities that you simply cannot get in the Civic Si, in addition to the hatchback form of the Integra that adds to its overall versatility. Overall, the new Integra is a more compliant vehicle that’s more luxurious but retains the fun factor that you expect out of the Integra name.
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