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2023 Acura Integra

2023 Acura Integra First Drive: Can It Capture the Magic of the Original Acura?

Looking to capture the essence of the original in a new, modern package

  • Integra nameplate returns for 2023
  • Standard turbocharged engine is available with a six-speed manual or CVT automatic
  • An entry-level Acura that could bring back old buyers and bring in a few new ones
  • An impressive driving experience for the price but it's missing a few key items
  • Kicks off the fifth Integra generation

What is the Integra?

2023 Acura Integra

The Integra has been around as long as Acura itself. Since the brand launched in 1986, the Integra nameplate has graced four generations of two- and four-door hatchbacks, as well as the occasional four-door sedan. No matter what year of Integra history you choose from, you were always assured to get a small, lightweight and sporty front-wheel-drive car.

For years, buyers looking for a fun, affordable luxury car could count on the Integra, but after the fourth-generation Integra (called the RSX) was discontinued in 2006, there was a compact-car-sized hole in Acura's lineup. Yes, there was the ILX sedan that filled that void for a few years, but it never lived up to the Integra name. Hopefully, that's where the all-new next-generation 2023 Acura Integra comes in. A compact four-door hatchback that's based on the latest-generation Honda Civic, the new Integra is an entry-level model in the Acura lineup that promises a bit of driving fun, some mild luxury, and some nameplate cachet, all at an affordable price.  

What's under the Integra's hood?

2023 Acura Integra

The new Integra uses the same turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that you'll find under the hood of the Honda Civic Si. Like the Si, the Integra produces 200 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the Civic Si, however, the Integra comes standard with an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) as standard. On the top trim level, the Integra is available with a six-speed manual as a no-cost option. According to Acura, manuals currently account for 65% of Integra orders, a rarity in a world that's switching almost exclusively to automatic transmissions.

The manual transmission comes with an automatic rev-matching function to make quick downshifts smoother, plus a limited-slip front differential to help put power down as you're exiting corners. Both come on the Civic Si as well.

How does the Integra drive?

2023 Acura Integra

During our test of the Integra, we spent some time in a CVT-equipped test car, but it wasn't as fun as the Integra with the manual. The CVT provides some simulated shifts, and paddle shifters are mounted to the steering wheel to make you feel like you're part of the action, but it doesn't light the same fire.

By contrast, the manual shifter is superb. It has smooth movements but you can feel it slide into gear with plenty of feedback. It provides enough resistance to feel strong in your hand without feeling overly heavy. It feels natural and engaging, moving into each gear like it anticipated your next move. Few manual shifters these days feel this good. Driving the Integra quickly is a joy, and the manual is a big part of that experience.

Steering and handling are engaging, and the limited-slip differential helps apply even power as you exit a high-speed corner. But unlike the Si, the Integra doesn't offer a summer-tire option from the factory. As a result, the Integra's grip and handling precision are a bit muted because of its standard all-season tires.

Since Acura has recently reintroduced several high-performance Type S models to its lineup, we wouldn't be surprised to see a new Acura Integra Type S that solves this problem in the near future, possibly using the same powertrain as the forthcoming Civic Type R. Since the last Type R made in excess of 300 horsepower, a new Integra Type S could be seriously spicy indeed, but if a Type S is in the works, mum's the word from Acura. For now.

How comfortable is the Integra?

2023 Acura Integra

Our test vehicle was a top-trim A-Spec with Technology package Integra. That means it was equipped with 12-way power-adjustable front seats with power-adjustable lumbar support and adaptive suspension dampers. The seats, trimmed with microsuede and unique stitching, are excellent. Even after several hours behind the wheel, there was no fatigue. The seats are easy to set up for any driving position thanks to an impressive range of adjustability.

Up front, there's plenty of headroom and legroom, and the rear seat has enough legroom for most adults. Since it's a hatchback, the sloping roof naturally gets in the way of tall adults entering the back seat. They'll be a bit cramped once they sit down too, but the back seats should be spacious enough for anyone under 5-foot-9.

The ride quality, while not exactly plush, is relatively smooth over bumpy highways and potholed city streets. The optional adaptive dampers allow for the selection of different comfort levels, including Comfort, Normal and Sport, giving you a progressively stiffer ride with each mode. For the most part, we selected Comfort mode and we were pleased over highway straights and curvy back roads.

One particular drawback we noticed, however, regardless of drive mode, was road noise. The aforementioned all-season tires equipped on our test cars made a considerable bit of noise on the highway, especially at speeds over 60 mph. A-Spec Integras are equipped with larger and wider wheels and tires, so it's possible a base Integra will be a little quieter.

How's the Integra's interior?

2023 Acura Integra

The Integra's interior is nearly identical to the current Civic's, with the biggest change coming in the form of the Acura's standard 10.2-inch digital instrument panel. Little touches, including a digital caricature of the Integra and unique graphics, make the IP unique to Acura. The rest of the interior changes amount to some more upscale material choices, unique seats, and an upholstery color choice of red, black or white.

The steering wheel, climate controls and the infotainment screen are all identical to those in the Civic. On its face, that might seem like a disappointment for what's supposed to be a more premium brand, but it might actually prove to be a boon for Acura. The climate controls are elegant and simple to use, and they provide just the temp you're looking for on a hot day. We never really fell in love with Acura's button-heavy interior spaces in recent years, and the simplicity offered by the Civic's blueprint is a step in the right direction.

How's the Integra's tech?

2023 Acura Integra

The Integra comes standard with a 7-inch infotainment display and an eight-speaker audio system. Every Integra also includes safety systems such as blind-spot monitoring, forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist technology. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but you'll have to connect your phone via USB cable to use these features. Blind-spot monitoring is a bit aggressive when providing warnings, but adaptive cruise control keeps a reasonable following distance and there weren't any false emergency-braking alarms during our drive.

The A-Spec with Technology package trim level bumps the infotainment screen size to 9 inches, adds a 12-way power-adjustable seat for the driver, and doubles the number of speakers to 16. The 16-speaker system is an addition from ELS audio, and it provides excellent sound quality but not nearly enough power. Crank it all the way up during your favorite song and you'll still be wondering, "Where's the rest of the volume?" A head-up display, front and rear parking sensors, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless charging pad for your smartphone, and three USB-C ports are also on deck in this top-level Integra. If you opt for the CVT, you get remote engine start too.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both worked flawlessly during our test, but it should be noted that there's no integrated navigation available — on any trim level. Most drivers will likely rely on smartphone navigation, but if you're driving through an area with spotty cellphone service, you should be sure to plug in your destination before you head out.

How's the Integra's storage?

2023 Acura Integra

Thanks to its hatchback design, the Integra outpaces almost all of its rivals in terms of cargo space. In the back, it offers 24.3 cubic feet of cargo space. For comparison, the Civic hatchback has slightly more at 24.5 cubes. The Mazda 3 hatchback has 20 cubes to work with, but rival entry-level luxury sedans such as the Audi A3 and the Mercedes-Benz A 220 offer less than half that, with just 10.9 and 8.6 cubes, respectively.

The Integra's interior storage space for small items is excellent too. Like the Civic it's based on, there are several small cubbies, sliding cupholders, and spaces you can organize to fit the needs of your small items.

How economical is the Integra?

2023 Acura Integra

While we weren't able to test the EPA figures during our First Drive of the Integra, the numbers are respectable at first glance. The Integra gets an estimated 33 mpg combined (30 city/37 highway). A-Spec models are a bit lower; the A-Spec trim with the CVT gets 32 mpg combined (29 city/36 highway), while the manual A-Spec comes in at 30 mpg combined (26 city/36 highway). These numbers are about average for the class, but note that several all-wheel-drive rivals fall below 30 mpg combined.

Edmunds says

2023 Acura Integra

The new Integra is not the iconic, high-revving two-door coupe that still lives on in collective memory, but we knew that long before we got behind the wheel. It's a practical, entry-level luxury hatchback that offers a bit of fun if you're willing to shell out the cash for a premium model. It's fun to drive, it has lots of space for your stuff in the trunk, and the interior is excellent. Luxury European rivals offer a slightly more premium experience but with a higher price tag, while the Integra easily outclasses mainstream rivals like the Mazda 3. So, if you properly set your expectations for the Integra, you won't likely be disappointed.