Acura today unveiled a pre-production prototype for the revived 2023 Integra ahead of next week’s Los Angeles Auto Show. The new hot hatch will once again share a platform with the Honda Civic, much like the iconic Integras of the 1980s and 1990s. While Acura’s chief branding officer Jon Ikeda didn’t offer many details during the reveal, we do now know a bit more about what the new car will look like.
To imbue the new Integra with the performance required of a proper successor to those models, Acura promises a six-speed manual transmission harnessing power from a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. An automatic with paddle shifters is widely expected to be announced closer to the car’s formal introduction next year, but isn’t confirmed. As with the originals, the new Integra will be front-wheel drive. Unlike them, they’ll be built at Honda’s factory in Marysville, Ohio.
Known as one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars of all time, the final-generation Integra for the U.S. went out of production in 2001. Acura shifted from names to letters in the late 1990s, and the Integra was the last model to make the transition, becoming the RSX in 2002. That car was never quite as popular as its predecessors and, along with the third-generation TL sedan, inaugurated the very design aesthetic Acura is now leaving behind. Cleaner, more muscular designs for the recent MDX, TSX and RDX pointed the way toward the revived Integra.
Integra Debuts with Acura’s Smooth New Aesthetic
Recent revamps from both Honda and Acura reveal a clear intention to reverse course from the excessive angularity and over-the-top styling typified by the tenth-generation Civic Type R. Honda unveiled the new eleventh-gen Civic Si only last month, with a toned-down exterior matched by a simplified interior and a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with only 200 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque.
The new Integra will feature the Civic Si’s engine, although Acura did not reveal how much power it will make, so it may be an improvement on the Honda. Retaining the old-fashioned six-speed stick shift harkens back to the driving dynamics that made the original Integras so successful while also referencing the popularity of Honda’s Civic Si and Type R variants. Other hints at the new car’s performance mission are its 19-inch wheels and 235-millimeter low-profile tires, oversize Brembo brakes and blackout trim accents.
Acura’s teasers for the new Integra promised swoopier aero lines and a sporty liftback roofline somewhere between a coupe and true hatchback. The prototype debuted today with four doors and perhaps a little more Civic DNA than was expected. While some enthusiasts might lament that there’s no two-door model, the rest of the Integra’s specifications are entirely in keeping with the original 1986 version, which also featured a five-door hatchback model. After 1990 the four-door Integras were changed to sedans.
In eschewing coupes, the automaker is responding to the market. Honda also dropped the coupe option for the 2022 Civic Si after slow sales of the previous-generation Civic two-doors. Meanwhile, introducing the Integra as a sedan likely signals the end of the line for Acura’s dated entry-level ILX compact.
An Icon Reborn for a New Era
A serious question for both Honda and Acura remains: Can the new Integra live up to its storied name? The original cars were small and simple—available as light as 2,436 pounds in manual two-door hatchback form.
They have since come to represent a bygone era with a driver-focused analog cockpit and rev-happy, if not overly powerful, engines capable of zero-to-60 sprints of seven seconds. That’s pedestrian today but it was quick in the DotCom era, and the eager, high-winding nature of the famous VTEC engines (Honda’s variable valve timing system, first introduced on the Integra in 1989 and notably continued on the 2023 version) kept power exactly where drivers wanted it while exploring the car’s communicative, tack-sharp handling on twisty roads. They were also easily tunable for even more power.
The third-gen Integra, especially in Type R trim, has emerged as a sought-after collectible in the past decade. It was one of the first 1990s vehicles to see serious investment from collectors and a legend among a generation who grew up on the Fast and Furious films, themselves inspired by the import tuner scene that the third-gen Integra was a core part of. No doubt rising interest in these older Integras nudged Acura toward a revival.
But even the compact sports sedans of today have become heavy thanks to modern crash structures, excessively computerized, and often overengineered, sometimes detaching drivers from the road with electronic-assist steering, lane-change assist functions, and dull automatic transmissions.
Suffice to say, Acura faces a tall task trying to satisfy enthusiasts who want an Integra that won’t weigh much more than 3,000 pounds, with more horsepower than a Honda Civic Si or Type R and the fun factor of a clutch pedal.
Type S Incoming
The third-gen Integra also marked the last time an Acura in Type R trim hit the American market—by the time of the RSX, Acura had transitioned to the Type S nomenclature that continues today on the new TLX sedan and NSX supercar. But will the base Integra unveiled today compete directly with Honda’s as-yet-unannounced Civic Type R?
We know that as Acura’s cheapest four-door, the Integra will offer a more refined interior and likely more power than the Civic Si, but the automaker has a tight needle to thread on pricing. Acura says the new Integra will start around $30,000, but the Si starts at $28,315. It’s hard to pack more value into this tiny sliver of pricing, but the brand hopes to lure many new customers with an attractive deal on a fun car.
The 2023 Integra will be a “gateway to a new era of Acura performance,” according to Acura brand officer Jon Ikeda. The original Integra helped launch the brand and hooked many customers for decades, who then moved up the ladder to TLs, MDXs and other models. But while those 1980s Integras were popular, for most of the model’s history there were even more powerful versions such as the GS-R and Type R.
The news that Acura already trademarked “Integra Type S” will likely help to assuage concerned fans. This Type S might also be somewhat more about the future. The third-generation Integra got an all-wheel drive option in Japan, but that model was never sold here. It’s possible that the Type S might transform the Integra with an electric motor (or pair of motors) driving the rear wheels a la the NSX’s four-motor SH-AWD system.