2023 Acura Integra Review: Classic Sport Luxe Vibes for the Modern Era

The 2023 Acura Integra is a sign from the car gods telling you that now’s the time to learn how to drive stick shift.

byAndrew P. Collins| PUBLISHED Jan 3, 2023 10:00 AM
2023 Acura Integra Review: Classic Sport Luxe Vibes for the Modern Era
Andrew P. Collins
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The cynic in me assumes every resurrection of an old car name is just nostalgia bait for a cash grab. Still, the idea of a 2023 Acura Integra hooked me as soon as it was announced. For my first few miles behind the wheel, I had a hard time thinking of anything besides: "I can't believe I'm in a brand-new Integra!" But I kept driving, pushing the vehicle harder, and ultimately realized this is not just a great car in its own right—it's a worthy successor to a beloved classic.

My fellow millennials will be inclined to think of the Integra as a light, accessible, sporty tuning platform that can be had for short money. Two decades ago when we were all getting our driver's licenses, that's what it was. My own first car was a (salvage-title, base-model) '96 Integra in 2004. I adored it until I wrecked it driving like an imbecile—but that's a story for another time.

Most of the old Integra definitions do still apply—the new Integra starts at a reasonable $33,000 and it's light by modern standards at about 3,100 pounds. I have no doubt that engine tuning, wheels, and suspension upgrades will be available from mainstream Honda aftermarket outfits, too.

I love the honeycomb design Honda and Acura are using in interiors now. I wasn't thrilled with the material surrounding them, but that's a minor complaint. Andrew P. Collins

But like Victoria Scott said in her test drive of this car, the original Integra vibe isn't underglow/body kits/Ja Rule street racing. It's about hitting the middle of a Venn diagram between circles of "sportiness," "luxury," and "practicality." And after a few hundred miles of test driving, I think Acura's pretty much nailed that with the new Integra.

2023 Acura Integra Review Specs

  • Base price (A-Spec as tested): $31,895 ($37,395)
  • Powertrain: 1.5-liter turbocharged VTEC  inline-four | 6-speed manual or CVT | front-wheel-drive
  • Horsepower: 200 @ 6000 rpm
  • Torque: 192 lb-ft @ 1800-5000 rpm
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Cargo volume: 24.3 cubic feet
  • Curb weight 
    • Manual A-Spec with Technology Package: 3,073 pounds
    • CVT A-Spec: 3,150 pounds
  • EPA fuel economy: 
    • Manual: 26 mpg city | 36 highway | 30 combined 
    • CVT: 30 mpg city | 37 highway | 33 combined
  • Observed fuel economy: 29.7 mpg over 286.3 miles of country roads (per trip computer)
  • Quick take: Party in the front, business in the front, the Acura Integra is once again a classy establishment you'll enjoy hanging out in.
  • Score: 9/10

The Basics

The 2023 Integra effectively replaces the ILX sedan as the entry-level option in Acura's lineup. If you don't remember that car, it was the spiritual sequel to the TSX. And that car was pretty much a four-door RSX, which was the Integra, after the last Integra's U.S. run ended in 2001.

A great angle on this car. Andrew P. Collins

Today, Acura has clearly committed to homogeny across its lineup. The brand's signature bunker-window headlights and proud pentagonal grille dominate the Integra's presentation, but it's a clean and contemporary design on the whole. Its liftback body style puts it kind of between a small sedan and a hatchback in size and silhouette.

The Integra's platform and 1.5-liter, 200-horsepower VTEC turbo engine are shared with the new-for-'22 Civic Si. The engine's responsive and reasonably lively. It feels like the design of the underpinnings might be what really makes the car simply feel good underneath and around you, though. The ride is confident and predictable as you transition from casual cruising to backroad revving and back down again. Most critically, it's comfortable without being too dull.

Meanwhile, the coolest value proposition here is the availability of a manual transmission in a sport luxury car. All other comparable brands have stopped making stick-shift—I guess the majority of the car-buying population doesn't seem to want it. But they're missing out. Should you get an Integra just because it's the only entry-level sport luxury car with a six-speed manual? Absolutely. Shifting yourself almost always makes a meh car decent; this is a competent car with a great shifter.

Andrew P. Collins

Frankly, it's everything great about the old Integra plus more safety and luxury.

Driving the Acura Integra

The Integra experience is good from the second you sit down; the driver's seat is comfortable, visibility is clear. Sharp sculpting on the hood gives you the sense that you're in something meant to be driven with intention. Actually, let me back up; the experience is good as soon as you pick up the key. It's a handsome little totem, a classy reminder of the car's coolness.

Andrew P. Collins

The clutch didn't feel too light or springy to me, and I was able to roll off into first gear very intuitively. In the car's normal drive mode, its steering and suspension had a light but appreciable tautness. Moving down to comfort, I had an immediate sense of reduced effort and feeling in the wheel; controls were all essentially a little muted but so was the road's harshness. Steering and throttle response were the clearest-changed in the sport setting—the car was suddenly much more eager to rev while the wheel had some earnest weight to it as the gauges went red.

In addition to changing the gauge cluster's coloring (blue for comfort, white for normal, red for sport), the sound effect Acura uses as drive modes change is a unique little squink that sounds lifted from a sci-fi video game. It's a great little touch that makes the experience of using this car just a squeak more fun. And finally, if none of the pre-packaged configurations are satisfying, an individual mode exists where you can pick your own combo of responsiveness settings.

Where I like to play (low gear, low speed, high revs), the Integra was having a ball. Exceptional LED headlights seared the mountainside roads I haunt, dancing between second and third gear, while the car felt really stable as I tussled its hair, linking turns. Intensely scanning for deer in my peripheral vision gave me plenty of occasions to test the brakes, too, which didn't give me any inconsistency or noticeably deteriorated performance (in cold ambient, but still).

Like its forefathers, the new Integra's peak power is high up its rev range. But you don't need to flog this thing and run it on a roaring boil the way you did with the B- and K-Series Hondas we were tinkering with years ago. Granted, that intensity in the old engines is characterful and fun, so I can't pretend its absence always feels like a plus. Acura claims peak torque is available from just 1,800 rpm and that feels about right—lean into the gas and you can feel its energy swelling even without a downshift. That said, you'll spend a lot of drives in this thing looking for excuses to drop a gear to get the tachometer swinging.

Speaking of the tachometer, and the human-machine interface in general, I found the Integra's surprisingly (and pleasantly) old-school. Yeah, the gauge cluster is all digital—but it depicts the main gauges like dials, just like I had in my '96 Integra. You can display more info like a trip computer and tire pressures and whatnot, but you can also turn that noise off and run some refreshingly simple gauges. The head-up display can be set to show speed and nav info from a smartphone. I declined to use this; I hate HUDs and prefer the bare minimum amount of information in my face while driving. But if you're the opposite, the HUD is plenty legible and adjustable.

The image Acura had on hand for a DC2 ('90s-era) Integra gauge cluster is a little low-res, but you get the idea. With extraneous info turned off, the new car's cluster doesn't diverge much. Andrew P. Collins, Acura

The climate controls and volume are all on their old knobs—no need to fumble through some dumb interface to crank the music or temperature in a heartbeat. And speaking of beats, once again, Acura's ELS system is magnificent, and, yes, digitally compressed music files delivered via Spotify still bang.

The Highs and Lows

That manual transmission, I'm telling you, is a damn delight to operate and makes the whole car feel so much more fun to drive than it'd be if you only had two pedals. Don't let me shame you out of liking automatics, but if you haven't driven stick in a while or you're intimidated by the prospect, this car's very forgiving when you don't want driving to be "work" while also being immensely satisfying to fling when you're out driving for joy.

The engine and chassis didn't leave me with many criticisms either—I really only wish I'd had more time to drive this thing.

As for the Integra's faults, well, despite seeming roomy, it's a tough proposition for four adults. I'm six feet tall and while I had plenty of legroom in the back, my head was hitting the ceiling. Fitting my dog's kennels was tough, and she didn't like the leather material the rear seats were made of. I, however, loved the front seats and their microsuede inserts so I think I'd just make my mutt sit on a blanket or something if I bought one of these.

I also had a lot of trouble with the wireless charger—even casual backroad driving would cause my phone to come off its pad.

Acura Integra Features, Options, and Competition

The four-door BMW 228i Gran Coupe, Audi A3, and Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 are the closest competitors to this as far as new cars go. I think the Benz is the pick if you're all about futuristic interiors, the Audi has the best fuel economy stats, and the Bimmer looks the coolest to me. But of that lot, the Acura's six-speed manual would win my money.

Sorry I couldn't get a photo of the car in motion. But this Dutch angle kind of gives it some extra visual action, right? Ka-pow! Andrew P. Collins

Base-model Integras start at $31,895, but the six-speed is only available on Acura's A-Spec Technology Package trim—the top of its range right now. This car doesn’t really have optional features, just three trim levels (base, A-Spec, and A-Spec Technology) with different loadouts.

All Integras run the same 1.5-liter VTEC turbo engine at this point. The base car has LED headlights, sunroof, blindspot monitoring, 17-inch wheels, and a CVT. The A-Spec, $2,000 more, adds 18-inch wheels, a black spoiler, LED fog lights, and more minor decorative accessories. That version is CVT-only as well. The A-Spec Technology, $3,000 on top of the A-Spec, has the coolest pieces of kit, though. The adaptive damper system that lets you change ride feel with a switch, the ELS sound system, super nice microsuede front seats, and nine-inch touchscreen display are all very much worth paying for if you can swing it. And of course, the six-speed transmission becomes an option once you step up to A-Spec Tech.

Sustainability

The new Integra is built in Ohio along with many other Acura and Honda vehicles. Honda—it and Acura are closely related, of course—reports that all three of its Ohio facilities were recognized with the state EPA's Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) Gold-Level Award in 2015 for "an excellent environmental compliance record, exceeds regulatory compliance obligations and commits to long-term strategies to reduce waste, lower emissions and improve environmental performance." American Honda's also been making donations to The Nature Conservancy in Ohio since 1991.

Screenshot edited for presentation. EPA

As for the Integra itself, its fuel economy and pollution ratings are pretty close to its nearest rivals, as you can see in the chart of EPA data above. I reset my test car's trip computer and proceeded to drive about 300 miles—200-plus of casual-but-spirited cruising backroads, 40 of running hard, and about 10 of punishing it as mercilessly as I could without exceeding my tolerance for risk. After that, the vehicle reported an average of 29.7 mpg which I thought was pretty darn good.

Value and Verdict

The $37,000 list price for the A-Spec Tech Package car I drove feels like a solid buy. It's not the plushest or most technologically advanced-feeling thing on four wheels right now, but it strikes a uniquely perfect balance between luxury, practicality, and performance that driving enthusiasts will genuinely enjoy and commuters will appreciate.

The car looks better from a high rear quarter than a low rear quarter (like from this perspective but crouching). Usually, cars are the other way around, in my experience. Andrew P. Collins

I have a tendency to lean into extremes when it comes to my own cars—I set one car up for hard driving, another for chill summer days, and another for road trips ... it's rewarding and glorious but a huge pain in the ass. The Integra, on the other hand, makes a strong case for a single car that can do pretty much every kind of driving.

It's also a really strong case for learning how to drive stick. Get a friend to teach you, watch some YouTube videos, do whatever it takes if you're on the fence—the 2023 Integra is probably one of the last exceptional new-car manual-transmission experiences we're going to have available on U.S. roads without spending supercar money. That’s always been the old Integra ethos, and it’s nothing short of marvelous that it still lives on today.

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