Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: January 6, 2023
Paying a little extra money for some added comfort isn’t out of the norm. Whether it’s for a more spacious flight seat, toll roads that offer a shorter route, or food delivery so you don’t have to step out of the house, some people will happily pay for additional convenience or spice in their lives. The same applies to the new Acura Integra, which can be viewed in many ways as a more luxurious Honda Civic Si. They both have the same bones and building blocks and offer the same fundamental driving experience but with more features, more upscale looks, and a more premium price tag. So is the Integra Elite A-Spec worth the extra $8,000 over the Civic Si?
In short, yes. Acura resurrected the Integra badge and while subject to much controversy, we enjoyed our time in the car and exploring what made it different from the Civic Si. But dynamically, the Integra drives almost identically. The petite 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder is a peach of an engine that produces 200 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. It loves to rev but it lacks the howling top end of larger displacement engines. We miss the howls and high-pitched tones of a naturally aspirated unit, but maybe we’re just too busy living in the past. Torque is plentiful when you keep the needle between 2,000 and 5,000 RPM, and there is not much use exploring the extremities.
There is significant wheel spin in the first and second gear when the tires aren’t properly warmed up, and adding too much throttle right off the bat never gives the chassis enough time to hook up. Like the Civic, the Integra understeers when being too ambitious, as the tires can’t handle too much at once time, even with the limited-slip differential. It never gives off the feeling of being on rails like the GR Corolla and its all-wheel drive setup, so it’s best to enter corners at higher speed and trail brake through, using the brakes to help rotate the nose and let the tires straighten out before even touching the gas. In this light, the Integra isn’t as fun as a Toyota GR86, and is significantly less playful mid-corner than a Subaru WRX.
There’s also a slight rubberiness to the steering, with only subtle feedback brimming through to your fingertips that portrays some alertness of the front end, but it doesn’t feel alive. Unlike the Civic Si, however, the Integra comes with an adaptive suspension that makes a noticeable difference in ride quality. Hiking it up to Sport Mode firms up the dampers for tighter body control and you can feel the nuances in vertical oscillations. In Comfort Mode, we found it more compliant and supple than the Civic Si as well.
Find the right rhythm and the Integra is rewarding to drive, but you can’t command it like a naturally aspirated car. You have to be aware of where the boost lies and how to negotiate around the RPM dead zones to make the most of the turbo-four. This doesn’t make it the most exciting method of propulsion but it’s undeniably effective when you find that sweet spot. It makes a decent exhaust noise too but like the Civic Si and Civic Type R, it’s nothing to write home about. Perhaps we have been spoiled by the raucous tune of the Toyota GR Corolla.
What the Integra nails down perfectly is the gear shifter action and driver involvement. The shifter offers such positive feedback through the gates, excellent resistance, and zero ambiguity. Rowing through the gears feels better than in the new GR Corolla and even Porsches that cost double the price. We’ve never missed a shift during our time with the Integra - we don’t even think it’s possible.
And the second ace up its sleeve is that Acura offers both automatic and manual transmissions, something the Honda doesn’t. So if rowing your gears and depressing a third pedal isn’t something you fancy, the Integra should be your choice. Still, sports sedans that offer a manual are now few and far in between. BMW and Porsche have been keeping this transmission style longer than most but on the affordable end of the spectrum, it’s just been Toyota and Honda - in Canada at least.
The Integra adds enough garnish to the cabin to command a premium over the Civic. Though the bones are the same, the use of faux leather and suede is somewhat convincing. The power-adjustable seats are the biggest upgrade. The 9.0-inch center screen and 10.2-inch digital gauges work well, though you also find the same in the Honda. Wireless phone charging, GPS navigation, a 16-speaker ELS premium sound system (versus the Civic’s 12-speaker Bose), and a head-up display set it apart. The Integra is also a few millimetres longer and wider than the Civic, but we didn’t notice a major difference in cabin space, mostly just the hatchback liftgate that adds an extra dimension of storage capability.
The Acura Integra is a solid performer with a bit of added garnish and spice over the Civic Si. Those who won’t appreciate the adaptive suspension, faux leather, or added creature comforts, will find the same engaging drive in the Honda. But for those who desire the sleeker fastback looks of the Integra, or who want a stress-free and clutch-free commute to work, the Integra is a willing dancing partner that’s worth the extra penny.
TAGLINE: It’s a Civic Si with some added garnish and spice.
Model: 2023 Acura Integra A-Spec Elite
Paint Type: Majestic Black Pearl
Base Price: $42,550
Price as Tested: $43,050
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,735 / 1,830 / 1,410
Curb weight (kg): 1,399
Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 200 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 192 lb-ft @ 1,800 - 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 8.9 / 6.5 / 7.8
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.0