In the movie Elvis, actor Austin Butler serves an electric performance as the iconic King of Rock and Roll.
It’s obviously a huge risk to play this magnitude of celebrity who has an enormous personality to live up to and legions of diehard fans to please, but Butler injects so much energy and passion into his performance that even Priscilla Presley, the late rockstar’s ex-wife, told Today, “Wow, this is Elvis, truly.”
Acura took a similar risk by reviving the iconic Integra nameplate, but today’s version doesn’t quite live up to the sport compact’s illustrious reputation that made it one of the coolest and most fun cars around back in the day. The 2023 Acura Integra is a great car, especially if you know nothing about its reputation, but if you’re hoping that it lives up to what it used to be, it might not live up to the hype.
For better or worse, the new Integra has a strong family resemblance to the rest of the Acura lineup. I selfishly wish the brand took a radical approach and designed something more unique or even retro-inspired, but I know that’s not its style.
Luckily, the new Integra still looks great and nothing like the redesigned Honda Civic it’s based on. The liftback design is stylish and sporty, and I love how the Integra name is stamped into the front and rear bumpers, a callback to the Integra from Acura’s golden days. The $500 optional red metallic paint is also deep and lustrous.
The Integra’s interior looks nearly identical to the Civic’s, which works because the Civic has one of the best interiors in its class; however, the Integra is supposed to compete on an elevated level, so it ends up looking and feeling a bit low-budget for the price Acura is asking. I would have loved to see some pops of colour, Integra badging, or interesting trim materials to help differentiate it more from its Honda cousin. The faux-suede seat inserts also feel particularly cheap.
The Acura Integra is powered by a 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 200 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque – the exact same engine in the Honda Civic Si. Power is routed to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT), but Acura offers a six-speed manual transmission in the top-line Integra as a no-cost option.
I don’t mind CVTs in most cases, but for a vehicle that’s supposed to be sporty and luxurious, it doesn’t convey the urgency or responsiveness that’s needed, so it feels like it’s holding the Integra back.
Driving Feel: 8/10
Except for that CVT, the rest of the Integra’s driving demeanour is solid. The steering has a heavy weight to it and feels precise and responsive, and the car feels nimble and balanced overall. But while it has a tidy and composed drive, it doesn’t exude much personality. I think Acura is saving all the fun stuff for an upcoming Type S model.
The CVT version doesn’t come with a limited slip differential like the manual one does, and when pushed exceedingly hard into a corner, the Integra’s front-wheel drive setup means it tends to understeer, but not in a way that’s a dealbreaker.
The Integra’s pickup helps it feel zippy in the city, but passing power feels weak on the highway, and under full throttle the car sounds strained and buzzy, another downside of the CVT.
User Friendliness: 9/10
One huge upside to sharing so much with the Honda Civic is that the Integra is very easy to live with. The layout makes sense, the controls and buttons are clearly labelled and where you expect them to be, and the touchscreen is logical and user-friendly. Interacting with the Integra is refreshingly simple and frictionless. Visibility from the driver’s seat is also excellent.
The Integra Elite A-Spec’s variable dampers help keep the ride comfortable when you want to cruise, and taut and composed when you’re hustling through corners. It also comes standard with heated seats front and back, and a heated steering wheel. The sleek liftback shape cuts into rear seat headroom, but there’s plenty of space in the front and decent legroom for rear-seat passengers.
The top trim Elite A-Spec has all the features expected at its price point. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included, and the integration is excellent. When using Google Maps, for example, the navigation directions show in the head-up display – a weirdly rare feature. Other highlights include passive locks, a 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster, built-in Amazon Alexa, front and rear parking sensors, wireless phone charging, and an available Wi-Fi hotspot.
Every Integra comes loaded with a generous list of advanced safety features including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, and traffic sign recognition.
Acura has tweaked how sensitive its sensors are, so they now work well without firing off warnings for seemingly no reason – an update that’s much appreciated. All the systems work as promised and feel quite natural. It’s great that Acura includes such a robust system standard.
The Integra’s liftback trunk makes it inherently more practical than a sedan without sacrificing style. There’s 688 L of space for cargo, the rear opening is wide, and the back seats can be folded down easily to make even more room. My sister used to drive an Acura RSX (which briefly replaced the Integra in the early 2000s) and said one of her favourite features was how much stuff it could hold. She moved to new homes a few times just using her RSX, and that same practicality remains intact in this revived version.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
The Acura Integra’s official fuel economy ratings are 8.5 L/100 km in the city, 6.5 on the highway, and 7.4 combined. Acura recommends using premium fuel. Over 666 km (really!) of testing I was averaging a respectable 7.3 L/100 km.
With the small ILX sedan being discontinued in the coming year, the Integra will become the entry point to the Acura lineup. The base trim starts at $34,350 before the $2,375 destination fee, and the fully loaded Integra Elite A-Spec version tested starts at $42,550. That’s about $8,800 more than the Honda Civic Si it shares so much with.
My biggest problem is that the Integra doesn’t feel like it should cost that much more than the Civic Si. If you prefer the way the Integra looks, want the automatic transmission, don’t often have passengers to move around, or prefer the sensible prestige of the Acura badge, however, there’s definitely enough there to justify making the switch.
I interviewed an Acura executive a few years ago, and he admitted that the brand forgot to have fun and was relying too much on Honda parts sharing, which was alienating its fans. He said Acura was committed to changing course and returning to its roots to win back driving enthusiasts and once-loyal customers. A new Integra presented an amazing opportunity to do just that, but unfortunately, the result is not what was promised.
Acura could have done so much to take the new Integra to the next level and give fans something to get excited about, but unlike Austin Butler with his performance as Elvis, the brand didn’t go all-in. Even if Butler’s performance wasn’t dazzling for some reason, I still like Elvis, the set design, and costume work enough to have enjoyed the movie regardless of who was playing the King. And that’s true of the new Integra, too.
The Acura Integra is a great car that gets a lot right, but compared to its cross-brand rivals and the competition from within its own family, it doesn’t punch as hard as I was hoping it would. Even so, as an entry-level luxury commuter car, it does the job extremely decently and the fact that it’s so easy to live with should earn it a spot on your test drive list.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo I4|
|Peak Horsepower||200 hp|
|Peak Torque||192 lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||8.5 / 6.5 / 7.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||688 L|
|Model Tested||2023 Acura Integra Elite A-Spec|
|Price as Tested||$45,525|
$500 – Performance Red Pearl, $500