Many people have forgotten that before Lexus of Infiniti, there was Acura. Yep, it was Honda who first came out with a separate luxury brand, and they set the trend that’s also being followed like Hyundai’s Genesis. In fact, even Mazda was going to add the Amati line, but thought better of it, and it never happened.
Especially with enthusiasts, the Integra name stands for something special. While it was from the beginning a tarted-up Civic, Acura made sure that performance goodies and special models were included.
So it’s really interesting that for their latest model, the brand has ditched the alphanumeric like ILX, MDX, TLX etc.….and brought back the Integra name for their once-again Civic based model. (For those playing at home the ILX which the Integra is replacing was also Civic based).
Since the Integra is based on the all-new Civic Si (which we love), the question may be why step up to Acura’s luxury division? Let’s find out!
On the outside, there are plenty of Acura styling cues – no problem there, as the current lineup is gorgeous, and we are especially fond of the performance-aimed trim levels. Along with that, Acura has made some styling cues to previous Integra models, which is pretty cool.
Up front is the brand’s familiar “Diamond Pentagon” grille – one of the few extra-large grilles that we actually find attractive. The front end has some real presence with four LED headlight elements – reminding us of the 3rd gen Integra’s trippy mini circular lights, and “Chicane” LED running lights that give frowny eyebrows that look particularly menacing. A cool touch is the name Integra molded into the front bumper – another homage to the 3rd gen model.
The profile is sleek and coupe-like, and here we find one of the reasons you might want to choose the Acura over its Civic Si sibling. Despite the racy lines, the Integra is a 4-door hatchback – the Civic Si is available in 4-door sedan only. So, if you want to carry more, you’ll be going to the Acura dealer.
Being an A-Spec model, all of the chrome bling gets tossed for sinister looking black trim which we feel really brings the lines together. Another A-Spec special, 18-inch alloys finished in Shark Gray really sell the sporty looks.
At the rear, the Integra makes a dashing final impression with single piece LED taillights, a kicked up rear section that flows into an A-Spec lip spoiler, and dual exhausts poking under the rear bumper promising a thrilling ride. Like the front bumper, the Integra logo is embossed in the rear bumper. Another nod to the 3rd gen model is the cut-in that holds the flip lever to open the hatch. Very cool!
The final touch on our tester was the gorgeous Liquid Carbon paint, a rich dark gray that looked elegant and upscale.
Get into the Red
If you’ve been in the new Civic Si, the Integra will feel very familiar, but it’s also obvious that Acura has added a load of upscale features.
Open the door, and the first thing that hits you is the bright red seating, part of the Tech Package which includes supportive sport seats with microsuede inserts to help keep you from sliding around in sporty driving.
Slip into those seats and you’ll find nice things like power adjustments and a lumbar support that aren’t available on the Civic Si. Ditto the dual-zone climate control and the wireless phone charger.
Look beyond the fat leather-wrapped steering wheel and you’ll see the 10.2-inch Acura Precision Cockpit digital gauge cluster that has multiple display modes and is sharp and clear. Having the Tech Package brings loads of tech, naturally, including a 9-inch touchscreen vs 7-inch on other models, as well as goodies like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a convenient 5.3-inch head-up display.
Adding to that value story the Tech Pack is pleasing to the ears, thanks to Acura’s 16-speaker audio system including two Highline™ speakers mounted in the headliner, above the rear seat passengers!
We like the sportiness that the A-Spec model brings to the interior, from red gauge needles down to stainless steel sport pedals. Surrounding you in style is contrasting stitching on the wheel, seats, shifter and shift boot. Sporty, and upscale all at once.
If you must ride in the back, you’ll find the seats comfortable for adults, and the hatchback gives a nice amount of cargo space. Drop the rear seats and you’ve got some real usable space – and since the Civic Si is offered only with a trunk, you’ve got a real reason to upgrade to Acura.
Fun to drive? Si!
Being based on the Civic Si, we were already expecting a great drive, and the Integra doesn’t disappoint.
Under the hood is the same 1.5-liter, turbo four-cylinder as the Civic, and it puts out an equal 200 horsepower and 192 lb.-ft. of torque. Acura says there are differences in tuning, and we have to say that the engine felt just a hair more responsive and sounded a bit more vocal with a nice burble from the exhaust.
Like the Si, the Integra is available with a manual transmission – in select models like our A-Spec tester. This is actually a big deal – many of the entry-level Acura’s competitors no longer offer the joy of three pedal driving.
We whole-heartedly recommend the stick, it’s typical Honda/Acura, slick, light, and easy to guide from gear to gear. Another bonus in the shifting sweeps – the Integra will match revs as you drop gears for a perfectly-smooth downshift. Great fun! Also worth noting, the clutch is light and easy to modulate – you won’t mind driving it, in even stop-and-go traffic.
The fun continues when the road turns, and A-spec makes the most of it with an Adaptive Damper System – the previous Civic Si had this, but the new one goes without. (We remember that the Si could feel a little stiff-legged at times.) Another reason to step up to the Acura! Comfort mode is indeed comfy, Normal is everyday balanced, while Sport firms things up a tad. Never to the point of harshness though, and it feels equally on par as the offerings from BMW and Audi.
The steering has plenty of feel and the precision makes it great fun to throw around your favorite road, although we wish you could opt for Summer Compound tires like you can on the Civic. The all-season rubber gives up before the suspension does. The little turbo is a torquey mother too, and you get the occasional tug from the steering as the front tires are scrabbling for traction.
A standard limited slip helps make sure you can lay the power down, and overall, this is a lovely, balanced machine that’s a delight to drive quickly, yet is calm and composed in the daily drive.
Luxury Name, Luxury Price?
Well, that depends. If you like the lines, the nice level of equipment, and that Acura prestige, you can get into an Integra starting at just $30,800. That’s great value. Our tester was much more loaded, with lots of tempting goodies, including the available Tech Package, A-Spec Package, and the comprehensive AcuraWatch package of safety and driver-assist features. So equipped, our tester started at $35,800. Add in $500 for the Liquid Carbon Metallic Paint, and $1,095 for destination, and we rang the bell at $37,995.
Competition would include the Audi A3 we tested at $42,490. We would point out that the Audi had Quattro AWD and automatic, and you can load up an Integra and get to a similar price. We’d stick with our tester though and enjoy the five grand of savings! A more even match would be the new Subaru WRX at $37,490, and it’s also available with a stick, plus standard AWD and loads more power. You will have less luxury, and to our eye, the Acura is much more pleasing to the eye. Either one is a great choice.
OK, 800-pound gorilla time. The biggest question for the Integra buyer will be if it’s worth the up over the Civic. Our recent Civic Si rang the bell at just $28,910, so the Integra is a considerable additional cost. Actually, we don’t think this makes the Acura seem overpriced, it just points out what an outright bargain the Civic Si is.
There is a palpable upscale feeling to the Acura, and you do get a level of goodness from adaptive suspension to dual-zone climate control that makes the case. Choose your budget and your level of luxuries and then buy with confidence that you’re getting a wonderful machine.
Sleek, stylish, and great to drive, the 2023 Acura Integra A-Spec brings a legendary name to an exciting new luxury vehicle!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.