For the last twenty years, Acura has made a habit of selling sedans and SUVs with three-letter alphanumeric names that are easy to confuse. But there was once a time when the company liked to use real names with vowels. Among those, few were more revered than Integra. Next year, the Integra returns.
Acura is calling this Integra a prototype, but those who have seen this song and dance before know it’s safe to expect the final car to look like the one pictured here. It’ll be “priced around $30,000" according to brand chief Jon Ikeda, who spoke on stage during the car’s presentation in Los Angeles on Thursday night, and it’ll be powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with VTEC.
That sounds suspiciously similar to the engine in the new Civic Si, where it produces 200 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque, so let’s hope Acura has more ambitious plans for this motor. An optional manual transmission will be offered, as the manufacturer teased some weeks ago, while a limited-slip differential will help place that power where it ought to go.
The Integra will assume its rightful spot in Acura’s lineup, right at the bottom, when it reaches dealers in 2022. In that sense it will replace the oft-ignored ILX, which, like this new Integra, was also based on the Honda Civic. Ikeda isn’t shying away from recognizing the car’s Civic roots — quite the opposite, in fact — though he is adamant that the Integra is more than a by-the-numbers successor to the ILX.
“Like the past, Integra is based off the Civic — just like the old ones,” Ikeda told me shortly after the car’s reveal. “We have an incredible Civic base to work with and, why not? Let’s do this. The Civic is amazing — obviously, Integra is something more than a Civic, and with this base we can make something that’s worthy of the name. The team took that to heart.
“There’s no way we’d put that name on it if we didn’t feel like it’s the right thing. I talked about the formula; we know the formula, and it starts with a good Civic.”
You expect brand representatives to be enthusiastic about their products, but Ikeda’s regard for the Integra name feels especially genuine. Still, the repetitive Civic name-dropping left me wondering: where could the Integra possibly go that Honda’s compact hasn’t yet? Especially considering Acura now has a 300-horsepower Civic Type-R to contend with, something that didn’t exist on our shores back when the Integra did.
“We are very, very aware of Type-R and the goodness that is Civic, but it gives us more confidence going in,” Ikeda said. “When they’re hitting their targets so high, you know, for a compact car, we know we could leverage that goodness to take it to another level with the Integra.”
What does that next level look like? An Integra Type-S with all-wheel drive? Even more power? Hybrid assistance? I’m spitballing here, of course — Ikeda’s not prepared to dish yet. But he implored anyone interested to please wait and see, and drive both when they have the chance.
Thursday’s festivities were regrettably absent of tangible details about the car. Instead, we can talk design. Which is fine, I suppose; it’s certainly not bold or surprising, and probably more bloated and ungainly than I suspect most fans desired. The last Integra was a modest, attractive wedge with funky four-eyed headlights; the new one is tall, a little dowdy and can’t quite pull off the hawk-eyed corporate face that the TLX wears so handsomely.
Moving to the back, the taillights are a dead ringer for those on the old Genesis Coupe. You might mistake the Integra for that Hyundai in traffic, if not for the Integra logotype embossed into the rear bumper, just as it’s embossed into the front one below the right headlight. Much like the yellow paint, that cue represents a callback to the Integras of yore. I can’t say the same for the questionable oversized decal strewn across the side. It looks woefully dated, and part of me wonders if it was an attempt to slim down the car’s profile with a touch of black for its first impression.
Looks are subjective though. In person, in motion, people will give this Integra the benefit of the doubt if it handles the way an Integra should. Alongside the TLX and NSX Type-S, it represents the next step in Ikeda’s vision for the brand.
“We’ve been building our strategy to get us back to our roots, motorsports and racing. We are a performance brand. I don’t talk about luxury much, if any. We know racing, we know performance. That’s our company. So Integra, now, it’s just the right time to bring it back.”
It’s a good plan, but only if it works. Resurrecting a name as storied as the Integra’s is a check you can only cash once.