Yes, Acura messed this one up real good. That’s about as true a statement as claiming water is wet. The North American semi-luxury Honda off-shoot clearly had hopes for a very warm reception to the revival of their beloved ‘Integra’ nameplate.
Given what was known to them about the actual car, were they delusional to expect anything but a sea of disappointed faces? It’s just a Civic, isn’t it? It looks like a Civic, albeit one that’s very yellow, and has been surgically grafted the same generic ‘Acura’ fascia seen for years. It’s also based on a Civic, and perhaps most insultingly, is powered by the same engine as the standard Civic. It's not bad, just too 'same-same'.
Malaysians, despite having so far been denied the 11th-generation version of Honda’s C-segment saloon, are already familiar with the 1.5-litre turbo-petrol ‘VTEC Turbo’ unit. In the United States, this Integra reveal was preceded by that of the Civic Si, a more enthusiast-oriented variant with suspension upgrades, a 6-speed manual as standard, and an engine tune that bumped output up to 200hp and 260Nm. Copy and paste?
Acura is keeping silent on powertrain details, but we’re taking a stab at predicting that this will be the exact numbers we’ll see on this Integra as well, leaving them without any good answer to the question “why not just buy the Honda?”
Being a more upmarket brand, the 2023 Integra needs to be set apart to justify its inevitably higher price tag, but because the brand has handicapped itself by making such a weak case for it based on its exterior and engine, the only avenue left to make an impression in the interior. Unfortunately, this is one of the most unimportant aspects of a car to enthusiast buyers, the same who must now feel some sense of betrayal toward Acura.
Speaking of that price, a rough figure of “around $30,000” was posited, but given that the Civic Si range starts from US$27,300, it’s unlikely the Integra will swing for anything south of that 30k ballpark. And there’ll be more than a few optional extras involved too.
The brand was very happy to string along their high hopes, letting the hype build for last weekend’s ‘prototype’ reveal (it’s so close to the production version it’s not even funny) but knowing full well that there was a disconnect between their expectation and the reality of what is being developed.
Upon the announcement that a new Integra would be joining the marque’s 2023 line up, rumours began to swirl as nothing but the inclusion of that name was given official credence. The Photoshop mob swung into high gear with a few very popular digital renders of what a modern interpretation of the sporty Acura coupe could look like while retaining those classic cues.
It was all looking quite promising until the second teaser emerged confirming that the car, which was already known to be based on 11th-generation Honda Civic, would be a four-door sedan. While it was a touch underwhelming, it didn’t necessarily mean that hope was lost.
After all, we’re approaching a point where we’ll have 4 consecutive generations of Honda Civic Type Rs as four-door only body styles, and the same is true for its closest competitors such as the Renault Megane RS and BMW M135i. Besides one prominent exception to the rule, the age of the ‘affordable’ is well and truly dead.
Those sympathetic to the brand’s plight could argue that the first generation Integra offered in the United States was a car that very much resembles this 2023 incarnation. Back in 1986, the Integra RS 5-Door was offered alongside a 3-door version and 4-door version, so this is kind of a throwback to that era.
However, it was the post 1990 Acura Integras that was primarily responsible for building the reputation and recognition the name now has; not so much the 2nd-generation car, which also came as either a 3-door or 4-door, but the now coveted ‘bug eye’ 3rd-generation examples.
They, along with the fourth-generation car from 2002 that by then was renamed the RSX, were credited with introducing so many in the US automotive scene to the ecstasy of screaming VTEC engines in taut front-drive chassises.
Because the 2023 car is such a departure from what everyone fell in love with about the ‘Integra’, it’s no wonder that this newest Acura prototype is being met with scathing comments. It really is hard not to see it for anything but a cynical attempt to leverage a well known and fondly regarded name to sell an otherwise lacklustre product.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.