Up Close With the 2023 Acura Integra Prototype: Still Sport-Compact Cool?

If Acura was to pluck a nameplate for resurrection, few models have the kind of shoes to fill as the Integra. From 1986 to 2001, the sport compact lived three generations in the U.S., then a fourth overseas under Acura’s Honda parent for what we knew here as the RSX. A poster car of 1990s-era affordable performance, the Integra paired premium attainability with sport compact cool. Can the resurrected Integra Prototype, a close preview of the 2023 Integra set to hit dealers in mid-2022, dial up similar enthusiasm?

It’s hard to say. On the eve of the 2021 Los Angeles Auto Show, we swung by Honda’s U.S. headquarters in Torrance, Calif., to see the Integra’s exterior in person (the interior remained closed off). My initial takeaway: The body style could earn as many detractors as fans, but other aspects hold promise.

Related: More 2021 L.A. Auto Show Coverage

The Integra is a four-door hatchback, a body style not seen in a U.S. Integra since the first generation (1986-89) roamed the streets. That isn’t immediately obvious until you get around the side, where the profile dashes any expectations of the trunk forming a tidy denouement — something offered in the second- and third-generation Integra sedans. The Integra Prototype has a bit too much sheet metal over the rear fenders for my taste, a departure from the leaner, horizontal or wedge-shaped profiles that characterized the nameplate’s erstwhile generations.

acura-integra-2023-prototype-22-exterior-rear-angle-suv 2023 Acura Integra Prototype | photo by Evan Sears

If the profile shows the chunkiness in its most awkward light, things clean up better from the front or rear three-quarter views. The latter recalls that of the four-door Mercedes-AMG GT, another dramatically raked hatchback. Speaking of which, that Integra Prototype’s liftgate angle sure is gradual. It puts overall length right around that of the recently redesigned Honda Civic sedan, a platform whose underpinnings the production Integra will share, and the Integra is longer than the Civic hatchback. That’s according to Andrew Quillin, an Acura spokesperson. In the days since the Integra Prototype’s Nov. 11 global debut, many onlookers assumed the Integra Prototype was the length of the recently introduced Civic hatchback, Quillin noted. But the Civic hatch is actually some 5 inches shorter than the sedan. The Integra Prototype’s elongated tail grants sedanlike proportions, at least in terms of length.

There’s “not a liftback in this premium space,” Quillin added, noting that entry-premium cars like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA are sedans. “At this price point, you’re either going down to a Mazda3 or [Volkswagen Golf] GTI” for hatchback functionality, or moving up to an entry-level SUV like the Lexus UX.

That said, most shoppers have graduated to precisely those SUVs. Is there a market for a turbocharged premium hatchback with an available stick shift? The GTI lives on, as will sportier versions of the Civic — including a 200-horsepower Civic Si whose powertrain the Integra could very likely share. (Full details remain pending, but Acura promises automatic or manual transmissions with a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine and, according to Quillin, front-wheel drive.) Acura has company on this expedition, and for the sake of attainable driving fun, I hope the outing isn’t doomed. If the Integra is as much fun to drive as its predecessors, it should certainly do well enough.

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