2023 Acura Integra: why the controversy?

After a 15 year hiatus, Acura, Honda’s luxury brand, has finally released the all-new Acura Integra, which takes the place of the outgoing ILX sedan. Prior to the car’s recent release, enthusiasts and journalists alike were excited to see what Acura had planned for the revival of what was once a very successful model, and one that—since its discontinuation—has developed a status as something of a JDM sports car icon.

The new car, which is set to start production in 2022, will be based on the Honda Civic, just as Integras of old were. It will also use a Civic powertrain, the 1.5L turbo out of the sportier Si trimmed Civic. This too, follows the ethos of past Integras, which also used Honda Civic powertrains. While official numbers haven’t yet been released, it is expected that the new Integra will make at least 200hp, and Acura has confirmed that it will come with a limited slip differential, as well as an available 6-speed manual transmission. These things combined make the Integra sound like it will be an absolute hit, so why are enthusiasts so disappointed with this release?

Past Integra Generations 

Soon after Acura unveiled the new Integra, posts of the new car, sporting bright yellow paint and garish Integra graphics on the side, flooded instagram. These posts were often accompanied by captions claiming that it would flop, and liberal use of clown and laughing emojis. I, for one, was a bit taken aback by this response: the new Integra seems pretty good on paper, so why all the backlash? Well, in order to understand this response, let’s take a trip down memory lane, and go over what made the Integra such a hit back in the 90s and 2000s. 

The Integra name, first used in 1985, has been written on the backside of both Honda and Acura models worldwide. The Honda Integra was sold overseas, and the U.S. only ever saw the Acura version of the car. While the Integra was sold as both a liftback coupe and sedan over its original production run, the car that continues to receive love and adoration from enthusiasts today (and whose remembrance is the root cause of the disappointment in the 2023 Integra’s release) is the Integra coupe.

More specifically, the third and fourth generations of the car, the latter of which was officially called the Acura RSX (despite it being considered and referred to as an Integra somewhat commonly). These cars have developed a cult following for their generally good looks, high-revving and peppy little 4 pot engines, athletic driving dynamics, classic Honda manual shifter feel, and ability to offer a JDM sports car experience for relatively cheap.

Additionally, the K and B series engines used in the Integras were equipped with V-TEC (Honda’s variable valve timing system), which offered that classic V-TEC surge in the high rpms. Finally, 3rd gen Integras were a common sight in the early Fast and Furious movies, and all it takes is a quick look at MK4 Supra values to see what that can do for the popularity of a car.

So Why are People Upset with the New Integra?

Now that we’re up to speed on what made past Integras so special, we can take a look at why people are so upset with the new one. In my opinion, it boils down to this: the new Integra is, at this point, only expected to be available in a 4-door configuration, while the old one was most fondly remembered as a two-door.

As far as I can tell, that’s it. On paper, the new Integra is actually an incredibly faithful recreation of the original one that people love so dearly. And in a world where the Chevy Blazer is a subcompact crossover, the BMW M3 weighs almost 2 tons, and an electric crossover wears a Mustang badge, that’s not only saying a lot, but is incredibly impressive. 

Both the new and old Integras are available with manual transmissions, both use Civic Si engines, both use front-wheel drive, both have sprightly V-TEC equipped 4-cylinders, both are sporty entry-level cars, both offer Japanese quality… the list goes on. To boot, the new one comes standard with a limited-slip diff, which was only an option on Type-S or Type-R variants on the older Integras.

In my opinion, Acura deserves major kudos for reviving the Integra nameplate with so much resemblance to the old car. Additionally, in a world where sales figures are constantly pushing automakers to crank out more and more boring crossovers, the existence of a sporty entry-level car should be celebrated, let alone one that is a pretty honest revival of an old classic.

I will admit, it would be nice if the new Integra were available as a coupe, but it’s still a liftback, like the old one. And the 4-door styling looks attractive with Acura’s corporate design language, at least in my opinion. So if it wasn’t already clear, enthusiasts being upset purely at the existence of two extra doors on the new Integra is, in my opinion, a little bit silly. 

How well will the new Integra sell?

With all of the backlash that followed the Integra’s initial release, it’s easy to assume that the car will flop, as many people are saying will happen. And while it’s very difficult to assess whether or not a car will sell well without getting a full spec sheet, a detailed look at the interior, or driving it, we know enough about how it looks and its powertrain to make some assumptions.

I actually think that the new Integra, assuming that it drives well and is priced correctly, will sell with reasonable success. To further work out this claim, let’s take a look at some of the Integra’s competitors. Mazda’s recent move upmarket will likely take some sales away from the Integra, as the new Mazda3—especially the Turbo version—is a compelling car, and is priced right around $30,000, which is where the Integra is expected to fall as well.

The competition

Other than the Mazda, the BMW 2 series sedan and Mercedes A-Class are too far upmarket to compete with the Integra directly, and the sporty versions of those cars far exceed Integra money. On the opposite end of the market are the Subaru WRX, Jetta GLI, and Hyundai Elantra N. None of these three cars have the brand panache that Acura does. While that will probably play in Acura’s favor, these cars do offer legitimate alternatives to the Integra.

That said, the new WRX is downright hideous (sorry Subaru, but you must’ve known better than to put plastic body-cladding on a WRX), and the Jetta doesn’t offer the same promise of Acura longevity. The Elantra N seems like it may be the most stiff competition for the Integra so far. It offers more horsepower, a much sportier interior and exterior design, and will probably win over the buyers who want athleticism and fun over luxury.

However, the Acura will likely have better quality and materials, and it wears a more prestigious badge. One thing to note, however, is that the GLI, Elantra N, WRX, and Mazda 3 Turbo all represent the top of the range for their respective models; meanwhile, we’re only talking about the base-model Integra here. I’m sure the Type-S Integra will outdo these cars rather easily, but we’ll have to wait to find out about that one. 

So after surveying the field of competition, there are certainly some cars that will take sales away from the Integra, but there is also plenty of room for the Integra to make Acura some money. It seems to stand alone if you want a reliable, sporty Japanese car that isn’t too boy-racer, and that will still have a relatively luxurious feel. 

Final thoughts

All things considered, I think that the new Integra is a surprisingly faithful revival of the Integra name, and it deserves to wear the storied badge that it does. If it drives as well as it should, I think that it will sell, and I’m excited to start seeing them out on the road when they go on sale in the next year or so. Additionally, this is just the beginning of the Integra’s next chapter, as I’m sure the Type-S variant, whenever it comes along, will be worth writing about, too. 

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