The Detroit News's view

With Infiniti and Lexus moving their entry-level cars up in price, while shifting some to rear-wheel drive, it’s refreshing to see that Acura – Honda’s luxury brand in North America – hasn’t abandoned its original concept of anchoring a stable of premium vehicles with an affordable, front-wheel-drive hatchback.

The all-new RSX replaces the now-defunct Integra as Acura’s price leader for 2002. The sporty RSX Type-S that we tested carries an attractive base price of $23,170 and reminds us a bit of a sporty Accord hatchback coupe we owned nearly 20 years ago.

She: I hated that Accord. Didn’t you have to get rid of it eventually because it was the antithesis of a family vehicle at a time when we had two little kids? As I recall, some leggy blonde bought it. Ah, memories.

He: Yipes! I totally forgot about the blonde. But I sure remember that car. Bright red, with a stiff suspension and a four-cylinder that couldn’t keep up with the car’s sporty image. The new RSX makes me think of that old Accord, but only in the sense that the new Acura really does deliver on the promise of its very cool exterior styling and equally awesome cockpit. At least the Type-S does.

She: Sorry, but the scalloped headlights reminded me of a woman with too much eye makeup. And the RSX cabin seemed designed by a man who was mad at his wife. I hate it when the instrument panel is angled exclusively toward the driver. And I even felt that way in the driver’s seat. It’s definitely not an equal opportunity vehicle.

He: You’re totally missing the point here, aren’t you? That’s the whole idea of the RSX Type-S. It’s a driver’s car, not a family vehicle, not a multipurpose vehicle. The whole package is designed to maximize your driving pleasure, from the outrageous 200-horsepower engine and six-speed manual gearbox to the taut suspension and crisp variable-assist power steering. The RSX Type-S is not just a pleasure to drive. I can actually see myself owning one and using it year-round, even in Michigan winters.

She: Maximize your driving pleasure? Ewww. You sound like one of those creepy Testosterol commercials I hear constantly on the radio.

He: Thought I’d do a little moonlighting on the side with those radio spots. But I’d rather spend my time in the RSX – preferably in the driver’s seat. I love the look and feel of the instrument panel, the shifter, the steering wheel, even the controls and switches, all of which have a fresh new look that’s aimed at younger buyers, but won’t turn off some of us older folks. And I can’t think of too many vehicles in this price range that will deliver this much entertainment for the money.

She: Here’s what I did like about the new Acura. The standard Bose audio system with the in-dash six-disc CD changer. Joni Mitchell sounds especially good on it. A power moonroof that is a treat, even at night. Solid safety features, such as standard antilock brakes, four air bags and a remote keyless en try system. And all that power doesn’t feel like a runaway tiger. The steering is precise and stays right on center, even if you take your hands off the wheel. And the RSX also comes with a great package of amenities, just like you get on the more expensive Acuras, including free concierge service, 24-hour roadside assistance and a four-year/50,000-mile warranty.

He: I’m impressed that Honda has done such a good job of taking the Civic chassis and re-engineering it to feel like a real sports car. In its reincarnation as the RSX Type-S, that chassis is fully independent with front and rear stabilizer bars and gas-pressurized shocks at all four corners, plus 16-inch Michelin MXM4 performance tires on alloy wheels. The suspension won’t beat you up on rough pavement, like the S2000 will. It’s much more civilized – just right for everyday driving – but still plenty of fun when you want to open it up on a nice stretch of pavement.

She: I think the RSX is a decently priced, lim -use vehicle. The people in the back seat aren’t going to be thrilled because it’s difficult to climb in and out of that space, which is fairly snug to boot. The cargo area is roomy and designed so that you can stand up grocery bags. But it’s more of a deep well, with a tall liftover. And somebody forgot to put a little strap on the tailgate so us shorter people can pull it closed. Sorry, I think this is a two-star vehicle because of how the passengers will feel.

He: The drivers of America disagree. I’ll bet they’ll give it four.

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