You had to know that with Acura teasing the return of the Integra nameplate after its lengthy hiatus, the compact’s eventual reemergence would serve as fodder for the fickle enthusiast fan base. That core group of enthusiasts that credits previous Integra generations for much of the community’s growth and is all grown up, with many having moved on to other makes and models, some having no choice but to pick up that shiny new minivan. A few have held on tightly to Acura’s entry-level phenom, even jumping back into car building duties much later in life to relive the glory years, this time with more expendable income than those starving college days. So the question is—can Acura bring all these folks back into the fold?
Dust Still Settling
We’re about two weeks removed from Acura’s unveiling of the new Integra prototype which, if history serves as any sort of guide, likely closely resembles the production version coming in 2022. As with any new vehicle being presented, the stage of social media is surrounded by onlookers, half-cocked with large virtual tomatoes just waiting for a chance to fire off. In all my years as an enthusiast, the backlash launched at the new Integra has exceeded anything I’ve ever experienced, and that includes announcements about fan favorite vehicles being discontinued. Sift through any automotive feed that features the new Integra (pretty much all of them) and almost all the commentary is negative.
Part of the anger from the masses comes from people like me, who have an unhealthy obsession with cars from yesteryear. For Honda nerds like us, it’s typically the ’90s and early 2000 models we grew up modifying and loving that set an imaginary standard. I think I’m mature enough these days to distinguish between automotive fantasy and reality and understand that it’s simply unfair to compare new cars to old ones.
Apples To Oranges
For example, my 1992 Integra GS-R is way down on curb weight, far more compact and driver-focused, and beyond the classic two-door liftback layout, represents styling that was a bold step away from the masses for Honda’s luxury branch in the early ’90s.
Today, none of the above is even a consideration as safety protocols negate those lightweight chassis from decades ago and larger four- and five-door cars move far more inventory. As for styling, well, it’s always subjective but it’s hard to squint a little bit and not see the Civic when the bright yellow Integra is splashed across your screen.
“But the integra was always based on the Civic,” rational people might point out. Yes, but in its original three generations, Acura was able to hide that connection well. In fact, if not for the editorial mentions, only the enthusiasts that tore these cars apart to swap engines, upgrade suspension, and mix and match interior components would be privy. This time around the separation between Civic family and Integra is much smaller and as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the Civic-to-Accord relationship is even tighter. Where the three vehicles once owned their respective space in years prior, today they blend into a blur.
Judging by the commentary online, the Integra is all but doomed even before the production model has been finalized. Of course, that has to be taken with a grain of salt as the loudest in the room are typically the least likely to have been truly interested in purchasing. You heard them when the NSX came out, the 10th and 11th-gen Civic arrived, and so on. With that said, one must wonder who this car is aimed at. If it’s the middle-aged crowd with fond memories of their high school or college days in an Integra with wheels and an intake, this body style might be too far removed. Beyond the five-door layout, the design samples the ILX, TLX, and even RDX, and again, the waters are a bit muddied.
Based on the video montage that splashed across your screen right before the Integra tiptoed on the stage in front of an eerily silent, special invite audience, it seems the focus is on the next generation enthusiast, the younger crowd that wants a manual transmission and sporty chassis at an affordable price that’s a step above the Civic. On paper, that all makes sense and the use of a classic nameplate only strengthens the idea, but the issue here is that the futuristic Integra doesn’t carry the same sort of edgy character that the DA and DC chassis once did. Even the first-generation Integra broke the rules for its time, and everyone took notice before the line was refined and blessed with ever-increasing performance variants.
The Power Hungry
With the Integra based on the Civic platform and no Civic coupe being produced, it was really no surprise that only a five-door would be made available. To create a coupe, Acura would be starting from scratch, a far more involved process than chopping a few doors and molding some clay. That alone angered many, though I think some of that could be negated with a proper engine and drivetrain option. The Civic’s turbo 1.5-liter I-4 makes financial sense for the brand but, once again, offends a power-hungry audience. Throw the Civic Type R’s K20C in, even at a lower rate of power, and you get more people to vouch for the new Integra. On the flip side, the brand has never run into the issue of being at war with itself having both a Civic Type R and Integra on the same soil at the same time.
Once the production version rolls out, the aftermarket can access which of the current Civic performance parts can be adapted to the Integra. Barring any major changes, bolt-ons should start flowing quickly. Suspension options and fender-friendly wheel sizing shouldn’t be far behind. As with any Honda/Acura, a lowered stance and a quality set of wheels and tires can make a huge difference in the car’s presence. Someone will have to address the front bumper and come up with a lip that flows with the ultra-wide smile or a complete replacement that fans latch on to. Keeping an open mind, I’m curious to see how hard the aftermarket attacks the Integra and just how much of the community changes its outlook once modified versions start hitting the street.
Give It Time
We’ve seen all of this before. A new car hits the spotlight and it’s ripped apart for months, sometimes years before being accepted. The 10th-generation Civic is a good example and should be fresh in your minds. With such a drastic jump in its design compared to the 9th-gen along with a shocking reduction in engine size, it took plenty of heat. Eventually it caught on and if you’re not part of that community, believe me when I tell you it’s one of the most dedicated and loyal of any Civic generation to date. It also has a huge aftermarket that continues to develop and pull in more fans, especially the younger demographic. The big question now is will that same delayed magic apply to the new Integra courtesy of the aftermarket in order to give it a much needed push?
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