|✓ Sleeker styling compared to the Honda Civic Si||☓ If you get the manual, the clutch is too light|
|✓ Fun and composed handling||☓ Not as premium as its luxury brand rivals|
|✓ Well-priced for what you get||☓ The manual is only available on the A-Spec w/ Technology Package|
|✓ 6-speed manual option (with perfect shifter throws)||☓ Honda Civic Si delivers on fun for thousands less|
Overview: The new Acura Integra offers all the fun of the Honda Civic Si with attractive styling…for a price.
Goodbye ILX, hello Integra. Honda’s luxury marque reintroduced one of its more iconic names in an effort to fold more buyers into the Acura brand — hopefully succeeding where the outgoing Civic-based luxury compact failed. The new 2023 Acura Integra shares its underpinnings with the eleventh-generation Honda Civic Si but brings a more premium look (not to mention a liftback design, to the Civic Si’s sedan-only approach) and a classier feel. Thing is, Honda’s offering already sets a remarkably high bar…so is this $37,395 hatchback (as tested) worth the extra cash?
This is one of the cars I’ve most been looking forward to driving this year. Why? Because I am an avid supporter of the #savethemanuals campaign, and this is one of the few brand-new cars that emphasizes a three-pedal option. So, the moment I was able to grab the key, I took the 2023 Acura Integra out for an, ahem, “spirited” early morning drive.
Performance: A playful powertrain, but I have one big complaint
As soon as you set off, you’ll come to terms with the 2023 Acura Integra’s 1.5-liter turbocharged engine. Like the Honda Civic Si, you get 200 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. While that may not sound like much, it’s a rev-happy engine that’s all too happy to break the front wheels loose at your command (at least with the manual option). Unlike the Si, you can get the new Integra with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Admittedly, that does broaden the car’s potential audience, but you just won’t have as much fun.
So, let’s stick with the enthusiast angle here and talk about the 6-speed manual. One huge caveat right off the bat: You can only get this transmission option if you go for the top-level A-Spec with the Technology Package. That raises the barrier to entry for row-your-own enthusiasts into the mid-$30,000 range. Mind you, that does also ensure a fully loaded car, and the higher-spec 2023 Acura Integra will not leave you wanting for features. The shifter throws with the manual transmission are absolutely perfect — short and accurate, to the point that I look forward to every gear change…
…Until I press the clutch.
I’m going to break away from most of my industry colleagues — including TFL’s own Nathan Adlen — and say that using the clutch in the Integra (or the Honda Civic Si) is like stepping on a marshmallow. The light and long pedal travel just feels so out of step with the weightier steering and the bolt-action shifter. It didn’t feel especially linear, either, where you can feed in the power and distinctively feel the clutch bite. Instead, the take-up point comes just before you let off the clutch pedal. I want to stress it’s not horrible and you will get used to it over time, but the light clutch frustrated my need for sharp, pinpoint-precise controls in what’s marketed as an enthusiast car.
Happily, on a positive note, that trait does make this car approachable. This is a great car to learn how to drive a manual, and the lighter clutch makes daily driving less of a chore. Especially in stop-and-go traffic. The 2023 Acura Integra also brings a rev-matching system to the equation, so you don’t have to lean on throttle blipping and perfectly hitting that take-up point to ensure smooth shifts. For the die-hards out there, yes, you can turn this feature off through the infotainment system’s vehicle settings.
Back to the good stuff
Really, though, that’s where my complaints about the 2023 Acura Integra end. To set it apart from its mainstream sibling, this car brings in adaptive damping. The “Integrated Dynamics System”, as Acura calls it, lets you change up the suspension firmness, as well as the throttle mapping and the steering heft. Not only does it offer Comfort, Normal (the default) and Sport settings, but you also get an Individual mode to cater each element to your liking. I tend to prefer a softer, more comfortable ride on normal roads, for example, unless I’m really going for it.
The Acura Integra’s heavier steering surprised me as well — in a good way. It’s quick, responsive and does actually let you get into the zone when carving the corners. Granted, we are talking about a front-wheel drive platform here, but the chassis setup, including the multi-link rear suspension setup, provides plenty of confidence. Another upside of choosing the A-Spec models: The 235/40-R18 Continental ProContact all-season tires offer heaps of grip. You can get larger 19-inch wheels if you want to, although you cannot order the car from the factory with high-performance summer tires, like you can with the Honda Civic Si.
The 2023 Acura Integra is a fun car for most people
It doesn’t quite hit the sweet spot for me because of the clutch action, but I’ll admit I’m pretty finicky about that sort of thing, so I still strongly advise driving one if you’re shopping around and judge it for yourself.
Fuel economy is another one of the Integra’s strong points. The manual offers up 26 City / 36 Highway / 30 Combined mpg per the EPA (I averaged around 32-33 mpg in my short time with the car). The CVT, should you decide to go that route, offers around 32-33 Combined mpg.
The interior: Like a Civic, but nicer
Did you like the look of the eleventh-generation Honda Civic’s interior? You’ll like the 2023 Acura Integra, then, since it’s pretty much the exact same thing. Same digital instrument cluster, same infotainment system options, same steering wheel, same honeycomb air vent layout. The base Integras offer up a 7-inch infotainment screen with both volume and control knobs, while the A-Spec w/ Technology ups the size a bit to a 9-inch unit with just a volume knob.
If you can forgo the manual, the Acura Integra offers plenty of tech even in its base trim. You get adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and automatic high beam “Jewel Eye” headlights as standard fare. One thing you won’t get with the manual transmission is Acura’s Traffic Jam Assist, because you can’t use the adaptive cruise control at low speeds like you can with the CVT, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also come standard, as does an 8-speaker audio system and a USB-A port. To get a USB-C port in the front and USB-A charging in the rear, wireless charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot and a 16-speaker ELS Studio 3D system, however, you will have to get the top A-Spec w/ Technology trim. That also gives you a head-up display and rain-sensing wipers.
Added comfort and practicality
The liftback design helps the 2023 Acura Integra over its sedan sibling by way of 24.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. It’s not as much as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and the liftover height makes loading a bit trickier, but at least there’s some more room than the Civic Si sedan.
One reason to pick the Integra is its leatherette seating. The A-Spec w/ Tech takes things one step further with microsuede inserts for the front seats, which offer up a comfortable and attractive looking package. The Integra’s front seats are also heated across the range, which is a nice touch as we roll over into fall weather.
Verdict: The 2023 Acura Integra is a solid choice — whether it’s worth the extra $8,000 depends on your tastes
Despite my clutch grumblings, the styling and feature set wins me over. The 2023 Acura Integra is a good car, to be sure, and it’s not eye-wateringly expensive. Base models start at $31,895. Even the fully loaded model barely tips the scales over $37,000, accessories notwithstanding. The Liquid Carbon Metallic paint on this tester costs an extra $500, as does every Integra paint color except Lunar Silver Metallic.
That’s thousands of dollars less than a Volkswagen Golf GTI, let alone entry-level luxury rivals like the Audi A3/S3, Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class and the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe. Mind you, stepping into the European rivals will net a nicer, more premium feel in most respects. But…is it worth roughly $8,000 more than the Honda Civic Si?
It’s a dilemma, and that answer mainly depends on your tastes. If the Acura’s look doesn’t quite tickle your fancy (I’ve seen that comment a few times) or you don’t need or want the luxurious trappings, go for the Honda. You’ll have just as much fun and save a ton of cash in the process. However, I do like the Integra’s look and its features. So, as a long-term daily driver, I would still go for the 2023 Acura Integra.
There may be a solution in the works for enthusiasts clamoring for a spicier version, too. We’ve seen what very well looks like a more potent Acura Integra Type S in the wild, with three center-mounted exhausts and (presumably) Honda Civic Type R levels of power. While I like the standard Integra, offering up more firepower and an even more enthusiast-focused driving experience could get me to sign on the dotted line.