Why You're Wrong To Hate The New Acura Integra

Opinion / Comments

The complaining is making us roll our eyes.

Recently, Acura unveiled the prototype for an all-new Integra model, and a million fanboys cried out in pain. Well, that's what it seems like, anyway. If you believe the weight of negativity versus positivity in internet comments, it's easy to assume that Acura has broken expectations with its Integra prototype. However, unless you're of a certain age, you may not even understand what the Integra was - after all, it went out of production twenty years ago. Even if you are of a certain age, you may be looking back on the car through Championship White-tinted glasses. So, let's look back at the Acura Integra and figure out what our expectations should actually be.

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The First Acura Integra

In 1986, Honda launched its luxury division, Acura, in the US and Canada. The brand had two launch models, the Legend and the Integra. The Integra was closely related to Civic and CRX Si but had some choice upgrades in suspension and tires, as well as a much-touted 1.6-liter Double Over Head Cam (DOHC) 16-valve four-cylinder engine to justify the extra cost over the CRX Si. The upgrades also made the Integra the sportiest subcompact car in Honda's lineup. The original Integra arrived as a two-door lift-back with, and this is important, a five-door version coming soon after. The engine was improved to make 118 horsepower through either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed auto. The result was a more upscale take on the Civic but came with upgraded sportiness over a Honda Si model as standard.

Verdict: The Integra was well received for its styling and driving dynamics in the US, although it never got the same respect in the rest of the world under different names. It sold well in the US, mostly to discerning buyers that wanted the practicality of a small car mixed with more upmarket comfort, dynamics, and styling over a Civic.

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The First VTEC Integra

The second-generation Integra arrived in 1989 and came as either a three-door lift-back or a four-door sedan. Acura had built a small fanbase for the car as a small, light, sporty vehicle in the US, and the new model came in RS, LS, or GS trim, had all-independent suspension, and a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine making 140 hp. It was a decent improvement over the first generation, but Acura changed the game with the GS-R version in 1992. Its new 1.7-liter VTEC engine made 160 hp while revving out to a gratifying 8,200 rpm, weighed just 2,600 pounds, and came with upgraded struts, a stiffer anti-roll bar, and a shorter final drive ratio; the GS-R was a pure enthusiast's car.

Verdict: The second generation is remembered for the GS-R that was two years in the making. This was the best value driving enthusiast's car you could buy at the time. Not only was it achingly good fun to drive hard fun, but it had Honda reliability and maintenance costs. We shouldn't forget that it wasn't the only model, though, and the regular Integra deservedly sold well.

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Enter Type R

The third generation, introduced for the 1994 model year, carried over the trim levels and most of the engines from the second generation. It's also the one most people think of when someone mentions the Integra because as well as the GS-R, America got its first Type R model a couple of years later. The Type R was a massive upgrade with its strengthened and stiffened chassis, a lower supreme mounting, 33-pound weight reduction, and a tuned version of Honda's 1.8-liter VTEC engine pushing 195 hp and 130 lb-ft of torque through a limited-slip differential. The GS-R was sporty, whereas the Type R was a performance car.

Verdict: Again, the normal Integra models were popular and prevalent on the road, but we mainly remember the GS-R and Type-R for being lightweight, front-wheel-drive, cars that offered speed, agility, utility, and were incredibly rewarding to drive hard. We forget things like a well-rounded base model that was still fun as well as comfortable and useful. Another practical move Acura made was to add all-wheel drive as an option to the sedan.

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Integra Revival

Twenty years after the Integra was turned into the RSX and transitioned into using the Honda K-series engines before being killed off completely, Acura revealed what it's calling a prototype of an all-new Integra. Like the first generation, the reboot is based on a sporty Civic - the eleventh generation Si. It's a five-door hatchback as Honda has learned coupes just aren't selling in America. Out of the gate, it moves with the times and comes with a turbocharged 1.5-liter VTEC engine. It will also be available with a manual transmission and a limited-slip diff.

Frankly, we don't understand the vitriol from comments across the web, starting with the complaining it has too many doors and is based on the new Civic Si. The Integra has traditionally been based on the sportier Civic spec with upgraded dynamics and comfort. It has also had several body styles including a sedan.

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Nobody offering an opinion has driven it yet, it's the first out of the gate of a new model, and we don't know what trim levels it will offer. The Integra has always had base models, and, traditionally, later on, even sportier versions have been released throughout each generation. Just because you choose to only remember the halo doesn't mean those slower derivatives didn't exist.

Talking with the people involved in bringing the Integra back, the enthusiasm and love of the original is palpable. To assume there isn't a plan for making sportier versions, to us, is absurd. When asked if there will be a Type S and/or Type R version, nobody at Acura will officially comment. However, the reply was given to us with a knowing smile and the assurance the prototype is just the first planned model. They know it would be absurd not to take the Integra as far as it can go, and trademarks discovered by CarBuzz already indicate a potent Type S is on the way.

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It appears most of the online hate comes down to the Integra concept's distinct non-coupe styling. That's a strange attitude from the same people complaining about crossovers being everywhere and the death of the manual transmission. Acura has deliberately pointed out it will have a manual transmission and limited-slip diff as an option, yet here we are. We've got a practical, reliable, and fun-to-drive manual car on its way down the pipe and the idea of a Civic Type R-based Integra Type S is one hell of a thing to look forward to further along.

There likely won't be a coupe, but you can't expect a company to throw away money making one that Honda has already demonstrated people don't buy. Frankly, those people complaining the world is full of bland crossovers and at the same time expecting the new Integra to come out of the gate as a two-door Type R in Championship White need to adjust their expectations. That's not how this works. It's not how any of this works. And until you start spending your money on the cars you're angry Acura doesn't make, they won't happen.

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