Interested in Integra?
Acura ressurects an old favourite, but does it stand up?
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There are times when I wistfully remember my 1990 Acura Integra, so imagine my excitement when news came the Integra was returning.
Mine was red, a two-door hatchback and with a stick, of course. It was a delightful car to toss into corners, and had just enough room in the hatch for stuff, more than enough room in the front seats and who cared about the rear seat, which was usually just a glorified parcel shelf anyway.
Today’s tester is black, a four-door hatchback and with a stick, of course.
As in the early days, Integra is built on the Civic platform, and just like then, attempts have been made to justify the price bump from the Civic. (Though, truth be told, if you’re comparing Civic Touring Hatchback to Integra A-Spec, the Acura is a bit less.)
That starts in the engine bay. The Integra has the same engine as the Civic Touring, but here, it’s tuned for an extra 20 horsepower and an extra 15 pound-feet of torque. It’s a noticeable but not mind-blowing upgrade.
The cockpit has a different design than Civic’s, but — and this is a credit to the Civic — the choice of interior finishing materials seems very similar. Civic’s smartly designed air vents, which are hidden behind a mesh screen, save for the direction knob, make an appearance in Integra. Instead of a continuous band of that mesh from steering wheel to passenger door, the air vents are separate entitites: two below the centre infotainment screen and one on each end of the dash.
The exterior design is, of course, different as well. Is it better? I think so, but that’s in the eye of the beholder (or in this case, the payment maker). It has Acura’s signature trapezoid grille, frowning headlights and a fastback roofline like Civic Hatchback.
Honda’s brilliance in creating manual transmissions is on full display here, as well. The six-speed gearbox has short throws and is almost intuitive in finding the next gear. One exception is sixth: get just a bit lazy on the shift from fifth and you’ll drop it into fourth instead.
Do you heel-and-toe? If you do, you’ll look like a genius in the Integra. (It does the downshift rev-matching for you, and is pretty smart about it, too. It will rev to the right engine speed based on the gear you shift into, so if you’re going from fourth to second, you’ll get a bigger throttle blip that fourth to third, for instance.)
It can be hard to find fault with most new cars these days, but a few niggling little things cropped up over my week with the Integra.
The A-Spec Elite tested offers a heads-up display and road sign recognition. Or, more or less, anyway. Driving on Route 20 (a.k.a. Lagimodiere Boulevard), the car tried to tell me the speed limit was 20 km/h. Oddly, when I passed the Hwy 59 sign, it didn’t try to say the limit was 59 km/h. (The speed limit on most of Lagimodiere is 80 km/h). It did, however, do a good job of reminding me I was entering a school zone (30 km/h).
I couldn’t wait to get back to the heated seats on my car (Mazda3), either. I often have to turn my heated seats down. In the Integra, it was sometimes a challenge to feel that they were on at all.
Does the Integra live up to its predecessor? Yes and no. While the first three generations of Integra were available as two- and four-door models, the current Integra is only a five-door. To me, the main attraction of the second-gen model I drove was the sexy body style of the two-door hatchback.
Canadians may still crave that body style, but Americans do not, and on a continent where the U.S. will sell 16 million cars to Canada’s six million sales, guess which market wins out.
As with other Acuras, Honda puts its luxury where it really matters: handling and power, with less emphasis on bling. For drivers, that’s what counts.
What may save Integra is that despite its added power, some versions are less money than their Honda Civic counterparts.
The greater question is whether it stands up against non-Honda competitors. A Subaru WRX, with 71 more horsepower, is less money. For a bit more, a Toyota GR Corolla has a hundred extra ponies.
Copy Editor, Autos Reporter
Kelly Taylor is a Winnipeg Free Press copy editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He's been a member of the Automobile Journalists' Association of Canada since 2001.