Auto review: An overdue return of an old friend — the 2023 Acura Integra

In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare argued, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”

But I am sure Acura executives and fanboys would beg to differ. For well over a decade, Acura’s been flogging the ILX, an upscale version of the Honda Civic sedan to only middling success. But what if you redesign the four-door sedan as a five-door hatchback, slap an Integra badge on it? All of a sudden this is no longer day-old sushi, it’s as hot as wasabi. Will, my boy, you could be wrong.

Let’s face it, it’s hard to feel all warm and fuzzy about any vehicle that’s amalgamation of letters like ILX. There are only two names that mean the most to Acura cognoscenti, and they are Legend and Integra. OK, more recent letters, like TL or MDX do set hearts aflutter, but like those two. And while Acura is finally resurrecting the Integra, the Legend sits unused. Both are icons, the heart of the brand in a way that, say, the Vigor or RL nameplates will never be.

But at least we have a new Integra, a hint, a sign, a clue that someone at Acura wants to bring back what made the brand great – and the 2023 Acura Integra is a big step in the right direction.

Let’s start with the basic shape; it’s a five-door hatch with a large glass area. But this is no exercise in nostalgia. While it could be argued the styling doesn’t go far enough – and you’d get no argument on that point from Acura’s own design chief, Dave Marek – there is much to drink in as you walk around the car. The Integra is the first Acura production model to wear the frameless Diamond Pentagon grille with an inset diamond pattern first seen on the TLX-related Type S Concept, and framed by trademark thin Acura LED headlamps. Its overall bearing is sporty without being overly aggressive, in the finest Acura manner. But could it have gone a little farther? Perhaps, but no complaints here.

Climb inside, and its place in the lineup as an upscale Civic is a bit more apparent, as some of the materials seem similar, just a bit nicer. Like the Civic, the driving position is very low, but you never feel as if you’re seated in a bucket. Of course, this is an Integra tradition, but one wonders if today’s buyers expect more than they used to. Nevertheless, space is typical of compacts good space up front, sufficient to pretty good in the rear seat depending on the kindness of those in the front seat. Is that a problem? Not really.

The Integra is offered in base, A-Spec and A-Spec with Technology trim. We had the latter, which is the top model for the time being. It had a larger 9-inch infotainment touchscreen with interface that proves clumsy at times to use, but is better than past Honda/Acura units. A 7-inch screen is standard in base models. Our tester was tops when it came to tech, with wireless Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless charging, additional USB ports, a 5.3-inch head-up display, and a 16-speaker premium audio system.

Regardless of which trim you opt for, you get a 1.5-liter 16-valve double-overhead-cam VTEC turbocharged four-cylinder engine used in the Honda Civic Si. It generates 200 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. A continuously variable automatic transmission is standard; a six-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip differential are optional on A-Spec models. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is not offered. An adaptive suspension is optional.

The Integra’s pace is more than quick enough in daily, but for those fast and furious types should hold out until the sportier Type S coming this summer. The Integra doesn’t let the rest of us down, having the vivacious, agile, and tossable characteristics we would anticipate. The Integra is enjoyable to drive because of the finely balanced direct steering feel. OK, it’s not quite as sharp as its German competitors, and there needs to be less road noise; it’s excessive for a premium sedan. Yet it’s clearly a significantly better car than the ILX and bears a name that is so meaningful to so many people.

And it returns enough of a premium, athletic driving experience, along with a dollop of refinement to justify its price premium.

What’s in a name? More than you think.

2023 Acura Integra

Base price: $32,495-$36,895

Engine: Turbocharged 1.5-liter DOHC VTEC four-cylinder

Horsepower/Torque: 200/192 pound-feet

EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 29/36 mpg

Fuel required: 91 Octane

Length/Width/Height: 185.8/72/55.5 inches

Ground clearance: 5.1 inches

Curb weight: 3,109 pounds