I remember the vitriol spewed towards the newest Acura Integra when the wraps came off. I do read your comments, after all.
Some of it was justified, some unfair, and some I disagreed with but could see the reasoning. Yet it all melted away when I finally had the chance to pilot a 2023 Acura Integra A-Spec.
Even my biggest concern – that it was merely a nicer Civic Si for 10 grand(ish) more – went away while behind the wheel. Were I shopping in this class, I’d probably fork over the extra 10 G’s for the Acura, and not just because of the luxury dealer experience. It’s that good.
Yet it’s not just performance that makes it so special. It’s what it does the rest of the time.
This is a sports car disguised as a daily driver. Or perhaps the other way around.
Yes, there’s a lot of Civic Si here – how could there not be? Automakers share platforms between their mainstream and luxury brands in order to save money, and most of us know the drill by now. You buy the Acura over the Honda for looks, or nicer interior materials, or a longer standard-feature list, or a better dealer experience. This is old hat by now.
So yeah, the same 1.5-liter turbo four is in both the Si and the Integra A-Spec, making the same 200 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to the same six-speed manual transmission. The suspension here is a MacPherson strut setup in front and multi-link in the rear, just like the Honda.
Yet the experience is NOT the same.
The Si – which, full disclosure, is one of my favorite sporty compacts – simply isn’t as buttoned-down in normal commuting as the A-Spec. The Si can be jumpy when you aren’t pushing it, but the Acura is relaxed. It’s the better commuter, better grocery-getter, better “take your significant other and maybe another couple to dinner” car.
Some of us may have near-instant access to a track or canyon road, but most of us don’t – we have to spend time getting to those places. And the Acura is simply a better place to spend time when you aren’t hustling.
Push it, and the experience is similar to the Si, with the only noticeable seat-of-the-pants difference being that the Acura feels a bit heavier and a little quieter even when the engine is on the boil. Heavier in both ways good and bad – a bit more planted, a bit less light on its feet. But even there the difference seems negligible.
We’ll let the fancy-pants rags with a budget for instrumented testing break down any measurable differences – all I can say is that the Acura’s performance is on par, if not slightly better than, the Si’s.
The cabin is definitely better. Honda’s influence is very visible, but some of the cabin materials are nicer. Oh, and for cold-hating Snow Belt residents like myself (a lifetime of winters hasn’t made the cold any more tolerable), you get heated seats in the Acura. That alone is almost worth 10 large. Almost.
What else does $35K – nearly $38K after the lone option (Liquid Carbon paint) and fees – get you? Here’s a partial list, bearing in mind Honda packages things by trim level with little in the way of a la carte add-ons: Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio, Bluetooth, blind-spot information and rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights, power sunroof, keyless entry, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist system, and road departure warning.
The A-Spec Package adds 18-inch wheels, LED fog lamps, all-season rubber, sport pedals, and a rear spoiler, while the Tech Package adds premium audio, sport seats with microsuede inserts, AcuraLink communication, a head-up display, wireless phone charger, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, and low-speed braking control.
I like the Civic’s handsome yet plain looks – they help the Si blend. The Acura is more distinctive and sporty in style, looking a bit more upmarket, and it too is attractive. Probably better looking, to my eye, than the Honda is. I like that it adds hatchback utility over the Si sedan.
The only style thing I didn’t dig is the tacked-on infotainment screen – and as noted above, sometimes it’s a bit too clear that the Integra is borrowing interior markings from the Civic. The A/C vents are the most obvious example of this.
The Honda Civic Si is a great car and a good bargain. The Acura Integra A-Spec takes the Si’s bones, dresses them up more nicely, and costs a little more – but $38K for this kind of sporty luxury doesn’t seem unreasonable (we’re not accounting for dealer markup here – we stick with the sticker prices for the sake of simplicity). It takes a package that’s very good, bordering on great, and makes it excellent.
It’s rare that I step out of a press vehicle and think seriously about buying it. Sure, there are times I drive something good and think “I’d want that” but either the MSRP or some other aspect (perhaps impracticality or the lack of a use case) puts me off. The Integra, though, is a car I could afford and could definitely drive daily. And it’s ready to play whenever I am.
The same could be said for the Civic – but the Integra is refined in ways the Honda isn’t. That, plus a few features and the hatchback body style, make the price premium worth it.
[Images © 2023 Tim Healey/TTAC]
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