2023 Acura Integra Review:Driving Impressions

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | May 26, 2022

Introduction

By mixing and matching some of the better components in its parts bins, Acura has re-created its epic, entry-luxury Integra that was a pillar of the brand’s identity in the late 1980s, throughout the 1990s, and into the early years of this century. The 2023 Acura Integra is built on Honda’s Global Small Car architecture, which means it’s Civic-based with the Si 1.5-liter turbocharged engine and 6-speed manual transmission as well as the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the Civic Hatchback. It helps that Honda and Acura have such good parts to choose from to construct the new Integra, the bones of which it shares with the Si version of the North American Car of the Year Honda Civic.

While Acura is preparing to launch several all-new electric vehicle models in the next few years, the Integra is a good reminder of what made the brand such a standout among luxury automakers. When it first introduced the Integra, Acura was the only luxury automaker focusing on entry-luxury performance, providing a pathway for younger buyers looking to upgrade from a mainstream brand product without breaking the bank.

Today, the Integra is looking to be the snazzy sneakers of entry-luxury. The brand is forecasting that manual-transmission versions will constitute a 65-percent take rate—a bold prediction considering that a whole generation that came of car-driving age since the last new Integra left U.S. dealer showrooms in 2001 are more familiar with swiping through apps on a smartphone than gears with a stick shift and a clutch pedal. Holy Shift, Batman.

2023 Acura Integra Price and Release Date

As with all things Honda and Acura, the Integra lineup is simple. There are three trim levels: Base Integra ($30,800), Integra with A-Spec Sport Appearance ($32,800), and Integra with A-Spec and Technology ($35,800), all plus a $1,095 destination charge. The latter is the only way to get the Integra with a 6-speed manual transmission. There are no options.

The Integra is on sale now at U.S. dealers. I drove both automatic- and manual-transmission Integras equipped with the A-Spec Sport Appearance and Technology packages for this review.

Independent Expert Opinion: Design, Comfort, and Utility

2023 Acura Integra A-Spec with Technology Package Front Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

The Integra’s sporty exterior design is consistent with current ILX and TLX sedan offerings while re-introducing a hatchback body style popular with younger buyers that’s been absent from the brand since its push into crossover SUVs such as the MDX and RDX two decades ago.

One nice element is the Integra’s expressive grille design. Even though it houses a radar sensor for the standard adaptive cruise control, it avoids the clunky-looking clear plastic cover over the Acura emblem, as seen in the current TLX.

Inside, the Integra sports a dual-cockpit design with thin front roof pillars for good forward visibility. Switchgear is simple and straightforward with a durable-goods quality feel. Instead of distracting push/pull shifter buttons for the standard CVT as in the TLX, the Integra sports a conventional PRNDL shift lever that requires no eyes-off-the-road time to operate. The Integra’s console-mounted Dynamic Mode selector isn’t oversized as in the TLX either. The result is more console storage space forward of the shifter. Acura also includes a wireless charging pad in the A-Spec with Technology version.

In addition to comfortable and supportive faux-leather-covered front seats, the compact Integra offers decent rear-seat legroom. At 37.4 inches, it is 2.5 inches more than in the considerably larger TLX sedan. And despite the Integra’s swoopy fastback roofline, it has more rear headroom than the midsize TLX does as well.

The Integra’s split-folding 60/40 rear seat and liftgate provide 24.3 cubic feet of crossover-esque cargo flexibility without the tall, blocky SUV-like girth.

Independent Expert Opinion: Infotainment, Technology, and Safety

2023 Acura Integra A-Spec with Technology Package Interior Dashboard

Photo: Ron Sessions

The new Integra has a simple Honda Civic-like touchscreen infotainment display that works intuitively, which is a change from other recent Acura models such as the TLX, MDX, and RDX that use a jumpy and difficult-to-use console-mounted remote-touch interface. Perched atop the dash center, it’s a landscape-format monitor that’s 7 inches across in the base Integra and A-Spec trims and 9 inches in the A-Spec with Technology trim. In addition to brightly colored, generously sized onscreen tiles for interacting with the system, within easy access to the driver is a simple analog volume/power knob and a pair of physical tuning buttons at the lower-left corner of the screen, along with redundant volume and tuning controls as well as a voice control button on the left steering-wheel spoke.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto cellphone mirroring are onboard, wired with base Integra and A-Spec trims, and wireless with the A-Spec with Technology version. Pairing my Samsung Android phone was quick and easy. Doubling the standard Integra AM/FM audio system’s speaker count from eight to 16 (including some overhead in the headliner), the Panasonic ELS Studio premium audio system included with the A-Spec with Technology trim has 530 watts of power for immersive 3D sound plus SiriusXM satellite radio and HD Radio. The top Integra trim also adds a Wi-Fi hotspot, connected services, and built-in Alexa capability.

Unlike its major German competitors in the premium compact segment, the Integra includes advanced driving assistance systems as standard with all trims. This entails the entire AcuraWatch suite with standard adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, traffic-sign recognition, traffic jam assist, road-departure mitigation, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, and forward automatic emergency braking. Also standard is a multi-angle reversing camera, a seat belt reminder for all five seating positions, automatic high-beam headlights, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic warning.

Independent Expert Opinion: Driving the 2023 Acura Integra

2023 Acura Integra A-Spec with Technology Package Rear Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

Hop behind the wheel, and 20 years of bigger-is-better SUV mentality goes out the window. The Integra is fun in the same fashion as the original, with a responsive 4-cylinder engine, snickable stick-shift transmission, tight and light chassis, and, oh yeah, a big rear hatch and fold-down rear seat for those things people think they need a crossover SUV for today.

Acura tunes the 200-horsepower, turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder for a broad torque band from 1,800 to 5,000 rpm and perky midrange response in the Integra. It offers smooth, linear power delivery and just enough to make things interesting. Despite its small displacement, the engine is very flexible, even when unexpectedly caught in a higher gear at lower speeds.

It’s the only car in its premium small-car class with three pedals. A helical limited-slip front differential included with manual-transmission versions helps keep one front tire from spinning during heavier throttle applications without the buzzkill of traction control intervening in a heavy-handed way.

I spent most of the day in the stick-shift Integra, driving in stop-and-go Austin city traffic, briskly moving freeways, annoying construction segments, and finally, some longer stretches of serpentine Texas Hill Country rural 2-lane blacktop.

As manual 6-speed gearboxes go, the Integra’s is right up there with the best. The shifter has short, precise gates, buttery-smooth action, and subtle spring-loading to guide you to the next cog. A lightweight flywheel in the stick-shift version adds to the engine’s eagerness to rev. Built-in rev-matching, which you can turn off if you’d like to demonstrate your expertise with the heel-and-toe clutch pedal technique, helps make the rest of us drivers smoother during shift transitions.

I also spent the better part of an hour piloting a CVT version, which was nearly as fun as the manual one, offering crisp response and a step-shift-like feel at wider throttle openings. Compared to the CVT in the Honda Civic, the Integra version has a shorter final-drive ratio for quicker acceleration.

The Integra’s variable-ratio steering is quicker at low speeds for easier around-town maneuverability and firms up for good stability at higher velocities. The A-Spec trim adds larger wheels, 235/40R18 all-season tires, a stiffer rear stabilizer bar, quicker steering, and black-out exterior trim. Included with A-Spec/Technology package-equipped Integras are adaptive dampers that continuously adjust to road inputs, taking the edge off larger road impacts and firming up for good control when making time.

I saw an indicated 28.7-mpg average fuel-economy reading in the stick-shift Integra’s 10.2-inch driver display over 110 miles of driving that included a good 20-30 minutes of idling while taking photos. That’s consistent with EPA estimates of 26 mpg city/36 mpg highway/30 mpg combined for the manual transmission version. The base Integra and A-Spec version with the CVT gets a higher 30-mpg city/37-mpg highway/33-mpg combined EPA rating.

Independent Expert Opinion of the 2023 Acura Integra

Call it a hot hatch with style. The 2023 Acura Integra is one of the brand’s least expensive offerings, but it’s rich in driving character, technology, and everyday usability. More than a few car companies have dusted off old monikers for new entries to stir up interest, but in the metrics that count, Acura has nailed the basics in this 2023 redux. If you want to rediscover long-lost abilities for your left leg and right arm, a 6-speed stick-shift Integra wants to have a conversation with you.

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive and consumer websites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals, and newspapers.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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