Fast Take: 2023 Acura Integra Elite A-SPEC

The Acura TLX is a Honda Accord underneath the skin, the RDX gets its bones from the CR-V and the MDX shares many of its components with the Honda Pilot- you get the idea.

HOME POPULAR Fast Take: 2023 Acura Integra Elite A-SPEC

Adam Allen Writer -

Back in 1986, the big cheeses at Honda held a meeting, and the purpose of that meeting was to figure out ways to increase profitability. These meetings happen all the time within the confines of automaker boardrooms, but a truly revolutionary idea was hatched out of the spit balling that took place on that fateful day. It was decreed that Honda would create a spinoff luxury-oriented brand based on model platforms they’d already spent boatloads of money to develop, and then subsequently slap a heftier number on the window sticker. They were the first Japanese brand to do so, and this brilliant strategy was not lost on their competitors who, as it happens, also like increased profitability. A few years later, Lexus followed by Infiniti came to play in this nascent segment, delighting middle managers seeking luxury on a budget across the world.

The Acura TLX is a Honda Accord underneath the skin, the RDX gets its bones from the CR-V and the MDX shares many of its components with the Honda Pilot- you get the idea. It is a familiar strategy employed by the 2023 Integra you see here which is essentially a Civic Touring with a Civic Si drivetrain. Sure, the styling and interior appointments are of a higher caliber that what you’d get with a Civic, branded with a name that will stir up powerful nostalgic vibes by anyone who grew up in the nineties. But will that be enough to get shoppers to open their wallets?

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Starting with the interior, Acura has made sure that what you see and touch offers a more premium experience than the Civic. Starting with the seats, your keister is cradled by thrones upholstered in a red leather/faux suede combo that are actuated by power adjustment and are heated but not cooled. There’s a banging ELS Studio sound system that drowns out higher than expected road and wind noise, but it is a quieter drive overall than the Civic. The hatchback body style is a boon for practicality, and it easily swallowed a family of four’s carry-on luggage when we played airport chauffer over the holiday season.

Enthusiasts drawn to the flame of Integra revival will place greater emphasis on the driving experience rather than cargo capacity and in that context, the Integra doesn’t disappoint. It shares the 1.5 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and the wonderfully tactile 6-speed manual gearbox from the Civic Si. Bemoaning the move away from screaming naturally aspirated engines to turbocharging is a ship that set sail long ago, and while we do miss the shriek they used to make at 8,000 rpm the current engine offers gobs more torque meaning you don’t need to wring it out to the redline anytime you want meaningful progress, a boon in urban driving. Despite packing a modest 200 horsepower, the short gearing and snickety-snick transmission make the Integra feel faster than it is. Acura also cribs the limited slip differential from the Si which means you can get back on the power out of slower corners earlier and more forcefully than expected, a bonus for ham fisted drivers or for those that like to grab their cars by the scruff of the neck and toss ‘em around.

The Integra also gets adaptive dampers that make for supple yet taut ride quality. The Civic Si used to have them and now goes without, so this chassis upgrade is significant. There isn’t a huge difference between the bookends of Comfort and Sport modes, but it does feel more relaxed in the former and sharper without being harsh in the latter. We made Sport mode our default setting because we felt its more eager responses were befitting of the type of car the Integra aspires to be.

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Overall, there is lots to like with the new Integra, but we kept circling back to two glaring issues that will relentlessly dog the Integra. The first is that the wonderful manual transmission is only available on the top-drawer Elite A-SPEC leaving the Honda sourced CVT automatic as the sole transmission choice for the lower trim levels. We think this is a missed opportunity, because there is a legion of buyers who will clamour for the shift-it-yourself experience but don’t care to have all the bells and whistles of a fully loaded example. That leads us to the other elephant in the room- the price. As we’ve noted, nostalgia is a powerful motivator and there will be those that will be satisfied by the mix of the Civic Si’s raucousness packaged in a veneer of luxury that the Honda simply cannot match. When we looked at the as tested price of our Integra versus the Civic Si we drove in late summer, our eyes widened in shock at the nearly $18,000 disparity between the two. Shoppers patronizing the small luxury sports sedan corner of the marketplace will correctly note that the full zoot Integra will cost lest than a similarly equipped Audi A3 or Mercedes Benz CLA; yet from where we stand, the price delta between Honda and Acura is almost too much to bear given that the cars are so similar.

But hey, remember when we said Acura’s whole reason for being is to make nicer versions of the more pedestrian cars on which they are based and to then charge more money for them? For better or for worse, the Integra closely adheres to that formula. We felt slightly conflicted when we returned the keys back to Acura HQ when our time living with the Integra was up. On one hand, we loved its eager driving dynamics, impressive practicality and luxury bits missing from the Civic Si, never mind the stellar efficiency it returned despite gratuitous and frankly unnecessary trips to the redline. On the other, the fact that the as tested price begins with a five instead of a three like with the Si was something that we just couldn’t get our heads around. It will be interesting to see how buyers respond to this conundrum. Acura recently teased us with an upcoming Type S version based on the new Civic Type R and we look forward to seeing how that one will compare with its legendary Honda counterpart.

2023 Acura Integra Elite A-SPEC – Specifications

  • Price as tested: $52,660
  • Body Type: 5-door, 5 passenger Sedan
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/Front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
  • Engine:  1.5 litre turbocharged four-cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  200 @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 192 @ 1,800 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,399 kg (3,084 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 8.8L/100km (26 mpg)