The 2023 Acura Integra returns for the first time in more than 20 years, and has earned a spot on our list of finalists for The Car Connection Best Car To Buy 2023.

The latest Integra honors the sporting character of Acura’s entry-level car that made its debut in the 1980s, and went away when the nameplate gave way to the tepid RSX and forgettable ILX. A lot has changed since the Integra left, but the car returns as a sharp ride light on power but full of charm.

With a starting price of about $32,000, and with a range we expect to cap at less than $50,000 in the forthcoming 2024 Acura Integra Type S, it hits the sweet spot as one of our five finalists.

The five-door hatchback distinguishes itself from the related Honda Civic Si by adopting Acura’s sharper creases and pointed nose fronted by a broad shield grille. It looks like a sedan or fastback more than a hatch, yet still has the full cabin utility afforded by the hatchback body style. There’s no mistaking it for a Civic, and with its rounded rear it takes on traits of the larger Kia Stinger and some European performance sedans.

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The power won’t impress on paper, with a familiar 1.5-liter turbo-4 rated at 200 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. Neither quick nor slow, it teams up with a CVT with seven simulated gear shifts to send power to the front wheels. The 6-speed manual on top A-Spec with Technology Package models better taps into the character of the Integra, which can best be described as natural. That A-Spec model includes a front limited-slip differential and adaptive dampers on the Integra’s independent suspension. It’s a calm highway cruiser as much as a hawk around mountain curves. It feels planted and balanced, even more so than some all-wheel-drive cars we tested in Georgia’s Blue Ridge mountains.

Even with Sport mode firming up the suspension, it retains its assured balance between comfort and capability. Precise steering travels from the small diameter steering wheel to the road, and linear clutch pedal travel complements the short throws of the manual to extend this natural feeling. Acura channels Buddha in making the driver feel one with the car.

It’s not a track car, however, and lacks the visceral power to even be considered a performance car. But its dual nature makes it an excellent everyday car.

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Even though the Integra is nearly seven inches longer that Civic Si, it’s not that much roomier inside. Rear seat passengers have 37.4 inches of legroom, but the seats sit low and fitting three friends in the back might strain the relationship. Behind the rear seats, the hatch holds 24.3 cubic feet of cargo, good enough to accommodate a party of four on a long weekend getaway. With the seats folded down, the possibilities for a party of two stretch as long as the day is long.

Acura equips the Integra with smart features and good technology, and it avoids the clumsy console touchpad infotainment interface on the MDX and RDX crossover SUVs. Standard gear includes synthetic leather upholstery, an 8-way power driver seat, heated front seats, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster.

Every Integra comes with modern driver-assist systems that mitigate the impacts of a crash and help out with driver fatigue. It has standard automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and other helpful features.

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We prefer the $36,895 A-Spec with Technology Package, with the 6-speed manual and limited-slip differential, as well as the adaptive dampers. The tech upgrades include a 9.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless smartphone charging, a head-up display, and a 16-speaker ELS Studio audio system. That’s a good deal, and about $10,000 less than the average transaction price paid by new car shoppers.

We’ll announce the winner of our Best Car To Buy 2023 award on Jan. 4, 2023, when we also crown the champs at Motor Authority and Green Car Reports.

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