The new Acura Integra was never meant to be a retro car

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The new Acura Integra Prototype was never supposed to be a retro or nostalgic design process. It would be easy to assume it was, as Acura’s messaging leading up to the big reveal leaned heavily on the Integra nameplate's heritage. From the model name embossed in the bumpers, to videos of shifting the older model’s manual transmissions, Acura yanked fairly hard on our heartstrings.

And then the cover came off last week, and while there are very subtle cues hinting at old Integras here and there, the new car doesn’t look much like the old ones at all. Unlike designers of the new retro-tastic Nissan Z and Ford Bronco, Acura decided to create something altogether new and different.

“So, admittedly, when we started planning this car, it was never to create a retro Integra,” Acura product planner, Jonathan Rivers, told Autoblog. “We actually looked at it from the viewpoint of say, if the Integra had never left the lineup, how would it have evolved? How would it have changed over the years? We think this is the result of that.”

Acura Integra Prototype
Acura Integra Prototype

There was never going to be a two-door coupe model, because as Rivers points out to us, coupes just don't sell these days. However, sportbacks are popular — just look at the sheer number of them coming from Germany these days — and it suits the customers Acura is trying to capture with the Integra.

“The target customer is a millennial with an active lifestyle, so they need space for their gear but they also want to have a great car to hit the canyon roads with every now and then,” Rivers says. “Once again, over the generations, the Integra is just that.”

For any naysayers throwing their hands up about the Integra seemingly being a fancy Civic, we possess two points of refutation. One, that’s exactly what the Integra has always been. It was literally badged and sold as a Honda in many other countries, and its bones have always been Civic-based. That’s the Integra’s history, and while Acura doesn’t officially come out and say so, it’s most certainly the same today.

On the design front, maybe you think the photos make it look a little too close to the new 11th-gen Civic Hatchback? Well, pictures on the internet don’t always tell the full story of a car design.

“None of the sheetmetal is shared with either the four-door or the five-door Civic,” Rivers explains. “And I attest it to, it’s like the mix of those two body styles, because if you actually had the five-door [Civic Hatchback] next to this car, it’s significantly different. This is an inch or two longer than the Sedan. Because we’ve made the roof such a sloping line, it gives hatchback five-door vibes, but really it’s a sedan in shape, and also has that versatility with the hatchback.”

That point about the Integra being an inch or two longer than the sedan is an important distinction to make, too. The new Civic Sedan is already five inches longer than the Hatchback, making the Integra more of a Civic Hatch XXL in overall size. It’s not a tiny car, befitting Rivers’ earlier point of Acura attempting to make today’s Integra, not a remake of the old. The car buying public’s taste in car size has grown substantially larger over the years since the Integra went out of production, and the new Integra tries to play catch up in that respect.

We tried to see if Acura would give us some indication as to when the Integra's revival effort first took hold within the company, and while we don’t have hard dates, Rivers shared with us how the process went.

“The name came along through the development as we realized we could make a car worthy of the name,” Rivers says. “So it’s not a marketing exercise, we didn’t just slap it on last minute. If we had the components, if we had some of the design cues. If we had something sporty and fun and versatile like the previous cars, that’s the car.”

If you combine the elements that we know of now, Rivers makes the point that it’s difficult to call this anything else besides Integra: 1.5-liter turbo engine, six-speed manual, limited-slip differential, hatchback body, good handling and an affordable price. In fact, those preliminary specs and features suggest that we’re going to get something as the base Integra that is leagues better and more fun than any previous base Integra models. The old base Integras were not super sporty cars by any means, and while you may have visions of the vaunted Type R running through your head, that high-po model is not what “Integra” meant 99% of the time.

And even though the new Integra is equipped with so many of the goodies enthusiasts yearn for, the internet’s response hasn’t exactly been resoundingly positive. Acura knew it would be tough to please everybody, too.

“How do you balance it where you appease the people that know the car, know the name, the heritage? But then how do you also appease someone that’s gonna walk into our dealerships and go, ‘hey that looks sweet. I like that,’ without having any previous connections,” Rivers told us.”

Bringing the name back of any old model that’s grown golden in the eyes of enthusiasts is a difficult task, but we (and especially so for your author) are super jazzed about the new Integra. And if an Acura-ized Civic Si Hatchback still isn’t enough for you, just give it a minute, because more performance is coming. We asked Rivers about the future of Type S for the Integra, and below you’ll find his response. It’s a safe bet to say that more is on the way.

“As Jon Ikeda (Acura Brand Officer) has alluded to and the rest of the lineup, that’s kind of the direction that we’re trying to move forward with this, so … when you look at this car and the foundation for this car … it’s a great performance foundation.”

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