Acura’s hot horsey hatch is back, finally …
Here’s a recipe for success – hot hatchback styling, 200 horsepower, slick-shifting 6-speed manual tranny, a bright red suede and leather interior, and a rockin’ stereo.
Acura insists on adding its luxury nameplate and requisite big toothy grille into the spicy blend that is the new Integra A-Spec Tech. That’s a top of the line Integra with all the goodies, but a surprisingly affordable entry price.
Who says your automotive tastebuds can’t be stimulated at a reasonable price?
First, let’s refresh. The Integra was Acura’s racy entry-level hatchback for years, but disappeared (why oh why?) all the way back in 2006, before marketers at the Honda luxury brand finally realized its buyers were quickly skewing older and there was nothing much to offer Gen Y or Z.
Boom, take the spirited 1.5-liter turbo I4 from its kissin’ cousin, the Honda Civic SI and design a bit more upscale 4-door hatch to capture a more youthful market, entry-level luxury sport car types.
Propulsion from said turbo 4 is a spritely 200 horsepower with192 pound-feet of torque. Turbo means quick and exciting power, and linking it with a fine short-throw rev-matching 6-speed manual and the fun has begun. Rev-matching means the car automatically blips the throttle as you downshift. Cool!
While there’s some road noise here the engine itself is another silky Honda winner that operates well within itself so it doesn’t feel stressed, especially if you shift a bit before redline.
Handling is sporty too with MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link suspension in back to tame the ride and help give the car a sport-tuned feel. The Integra rides on a 107.7-inch wheelbase that’s just enough to eliminate severe ride over crater-pocked Wisconsin roads.
Plus Acura goes with three drive modes that can be toggled into action on the console. Comfort is best in town, while Normal ups the acceleration just a bit and then Sport turns on the afterburners and stiffens the steering feel considerably. In essence, this covers the buyer from luxury up through sporty.
The electric variable ratio power steering offers some reasonable road feedback too, again putting the emphasis on sporty, not racy.
I like Integra’s look, especially its nose and profile, but then I think hatchbacks are always slicker than sedans. Acura and Lexus noses are definitely in-your-face but the hood and headlights blend well into the massive grinning grille here.
Inside, well, brothel red suede and leather gives this a sexier look than most hatchbacks and premium sport coupes. The suede is standard on the Tech model and this fun factory look works with the dark metallic gray (Liquid Carbon, $500 extra) exterior. Naturally the dash and door tops are black to take the edge off the flamboyant seats and door panels.
Cooler yet (IMHO) are the metallic mesh air vent covers and gray metallic textured dash trim, and satin chrome door releases, trim, etc. This looks youthful and decidedly less mature than most luxury makes. It’s NOT your dad’s Acura!
The info screen is easy enough to use and is a fine 9-incher, up from a 7-inch model in the base Integra. The digital driver’s screen is easy to read too with some adjustability and red gauge needles too.
Acura’s dash is a nice mix of buttons, knobs, and touchscreen functions. Knobs tune the radio and climate controls, along with a few directional buttons. This trim also adds awireless charger under the center stack.
Pedals are stainless steel for a sporty look and the steering wheel a thick leather with red stitching to match the seats. I’d prefer a flat-bottom wheel in any sporty car, but this one didn’t impede entering and exiting as the power seats and power tilt/telescope wheel were simple to adjust for driving and egress comfort.
With short folks up front there’s plenty of legroom for adults in the rear seat, and even average size folks will fit fine. While the seats look and feel high-class, in a sporty car like this I’d expect more hip support, the bottom cushion being a bit too hard and flat. The rear seats are pretty comfy though. Trunk space behind them is generous, plus the seats fold down flat. The cargo well is deep and there is a bit of a reach over the tail when loading the trunk.
Overhead is a standard-size sunroof with manual shade.
But the big deal for audiophiles is a 16-speaker ELS Studio Sound system with two overhead speakers to rock the occupants. It sounded super too and was easy to tune via the touchscreen.
Safety equipment is solid too with smart cruise control, collision mitigating braking, front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, cabin departure mitigation, which warns if you’re about to open a door into traffic.
For the record, moving up from the base model to the A-Spec gets you the 10.2-inch driver’s digital screen, stainless steel pedals, contrast stitching on the seats, sport-tuned suspension, and 18-inch alloy wheels, up from 17-inchers. It also makes the manual tranny an option.
Going this top level with the Tech package means that suspension is adaptive (3 modes), plus adds the suede seat inserts, bigger info screen and the rockin’ stereo.
Pricing? Well, you can go base and get an automatic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) that will not put an emphasis on acceleration or performance and pay just $32,495, including delivery. Options are available, but not the 6-speed.
Move up to that A-Spec and it’s just $2,000 more and the manual is available. Or move up to the Rev-matching manual version that is the A-Spec Tech as was tested. Price is an incredible $36,895. All this one added was the special paint color for $500 to hit $37,395. With average car prices now exceeding $45,000, that’s a deal!
That turbo needs its capsaicinoid for pep, and here that’s higher octane fuel, so go premium. Of course one can use regular, but power will drop off a bit over a couple tankfuls. Yet you’ll be getting 26 to 36 mpg says the EPA, so maybe the extra cost for premium won’t hurt too much. I got 30 mpg in a mix of city and highway outings and was happy to use all the horses the Integra had to offer.
Folks seeking sporty hatches with a 6-speed stick are today’s unicorn hunters. Yet Acura/Honda happily has more than one answer.
If you don’t need a luxury nameplate, consider a $30k Honda Civic SI that packs the same powerplant and 6-speed manual, weighs 200 pounds less, is two inches shorter, and features blander styling. It’s even rated a tad quicker by Car and Driver magazine, 6.8 seconds 0-60 mph vs. 7.0 for the Acura. Your tush will never perceive a difference.
Yet if you want a bigger blast, know that the habanero version, Integra Type S, is coming this month as a 2024 model and will add a 2.0-liter turbo I4 that generates 300+ horsepower to the mix!
Spicier indeed, but with a hotter price tag at $51,995.
FAST STATS: 2023 Acura Integra A-Spec Tech
Hits: Sharp-looking hatchback, peppy power, sporty handling, good ride and slick six-speed manual transmission. Sexy interior, red suede/leather seats, metallic mesh air vents, power driver’s seat, 3 drive modes, good screen, wireless charger, stainless steel pedals, heated front seats, sunroof, snazzy stereo. Good cargo space.
Misses: A bit noisy inside, needs flat-bottom steering wheel, seats firm and need more hip support, prefers premium fuel.
Made in: Marysville, Ohio
Engine: 1.5-liter turbo I4, 200 hp/192 torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 3,150 lbs.
Wheelbase: 107.7 in.
Length: 185.8 in.
Cargo: 24.3 cu.ft.
MPG: 30.0 (tested)
Base Price: $36,895 w/delivery
Special paint, $500
Test vehicle: $37,395
Sources: Acura, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage