First Drive: 2002 Acura RSX first drives acura
2002 Acura RSX
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by Greg Wilson

Integra-replacement has more vroom – higher price

Banff, Alberta – Goodbye Integra, hello RSX. Acura’s replacement for the sporty Integra hatchback/coupe has been rebadged RSX. Completely redesigned, the 2002 RSX has new exterior and interior styling, a new platform and suspension, two new engines, three new transmissions, new brakes, and more standard equipment.

“We expect the new RSX to attract customers to Acura because of its
performance personality,” says Bill Bunting, Acura Canada Public Relations Supervisor. “The RSX will be the entry performance car to the
Acura family. RSX will also attract current Integra customers with higher
performance and increased features.”

Three trim levels will be offered, the first one exclusive to Canada: RSX, RSX Premium and RSX Type S. They’re scheduled to go on sale, July 12th.

A high-performance Type R model has just been introduced in Japan, but it’s not available here, yet.

First Drive: 2002 Acura RSX first drives acura
Acura RSX Type S

First Drive: 2002 Acura RSX first drives acura
Acura RSX Premium
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Prices have not been announced, but Acura Canada spokesperson Richard Jacobs says they will be in the mid $20,000 range to the low $30,000 range. That’s a significant hike from the current Integra: the 2001 Integra SE is $22,500, GS is $26,500, and the GSR is $28,500. Type R models go for $31,500.

RSX and RSX Premium models have a new 160 horsepower 2.0 litre DOHC 16 valve i-VTEC (‘i’ for intelligent) four cylinder engine that’s lighter and more powerful than the previous 140 horsepower 1.8 litre unit. Its new i-VTEC with VTC (variable timing control) is an improvement over the previous VTEC system because it continuously adjusts valve timing, maximizing torque at low speeds while improving fuel efficiency and exhaust emissions.

The top-of-the-line RSX Type S has a 200 horsepower 2.0 litre i-VTEC engine which replaces the 170 horsepower VTEC engine in the current Integra GS-R. The Type S engine has a more sophisticated continuously-variable valve timing system that applies variable timing to both intake and exhaust valves . Both RSX engines have improved horsepower, torque, fuel efficiency, and emissions when compared with the Integra’s engines – they meet 2004 LEV 2 (Low Emissions Vehicle) standards. .

First Drive: 2002 Acura RSX first drives acura
2002 Acura RSX Type S engine
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RSX and RSX Premium models have a new 5-speed manual transmission with improved shift feel, and a new, optional 5-speed automatic ‘Sportshift’ transmission with manual sequential shift mode (replacing the previous 4-speed automatic). RSX Type S models come with a new, standard 6-speed manual – an automatic is not offered.

Replacing the Integra’s independent double wishbone suspension is new strut front suspension and a more compact rear wishbone suspension – space saving was one of the major reasons for the suspension redesign – the RSX’s cabin is 6% larger and the trunk is 33% bigger than the Integra’s.

First Drive: 2002 Acura RSX first drives acura
2002 Acura RSX engine
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Other improvements to the RSX include larger 15 inch tires on RSX and 16 inch on RSX Premium and Type S models, a quicker steering ratio, and larger disc brakes – but as before, ABS is not available on base models. And base models no longer have standard alloy wheels.

The 2002 RSX’s length and wheelbase are about the same as the Integra, but the roof is 65 mm taller and the body is 15 mm wider, adding to front passenger headroom and hiproom. The front seat hip-point has been raised 40 mm for easier entry. The two rear passengers have 20 mm more legroom, but headroom is sparse and they must sit under the heat of the rear window glass.

The new interior gets a sporty, thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel, metallic look round gauges and dash trim, a handsome textured dash material, and racing-style front sport seats which offer superb lateral support when cornering. New interior features on all models include automatic climate control, keyless entry, auto up/down feature on the power windows, power heated mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, dual-stage front airbags and side airbags mounted in the front seats.

First Drive: 2002 Acura RSX first drives acura
2002 Acura RSX Type S
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RSX models have cloth/simulated suede seats while Premium models have perforated leather seats with seat heaters, a moonroof, and cruise control. Type S models add a new Acura/Bose 6-disc in-dash CD player and cassette player with a trunk-mounted subwoofer box.

Preliminary driving impressions on the mountainous highways west of Banff, Alberta indicate a higher degree of refinement, less engine noise, and improved driving dynamics. With a passenger on board and a handheld stopwatch, I recorded a 0 to 100 km/h time of 9.0 seconds for the RSX and 8.5 seconds for the RSX Type S. As with the Integra, the RSX’s engine has to be revved very high to extract its power – the Type S has a redline of 7,900 rpm!.

First Drive: 2002 Acura RSX first drives acura
2002 Acura RSX Premium
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Both models have more torque than before (RSX: 141 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm vs 124 @ 5200 rpm; Type S: 142 @ 6000 vs. 128 lb-ft @ 6200 rpm), but I still longed for more. In addition, the Type S engine has about the same amount of torque as the standard RSX engine, but at much higher revs: 6000 rpm compared to 4000 rpm – the base engine is actually more responsive at lower engine speeds typically used for around-town driving.

More impressive was the RSX’s quick, responsive steering, nimble fun-to-drive handling, tight body structure, flick-of-the-wrist manual transmission (both 5-speed and 6 speed), and powerful four wheel disc brakes. These are attributes that belong to the Integra as well, but the RSX takes them to a higher level.

Acura is targeting ‘single male buyers in their early 30′s’ with the RSX and expects the Premium model to make up 50% of sales with the standard RSX and Type S each accounting for 25% of sales. Likely competitors will include the Toyota Celica GT and GT-S and VW GTI 1.8T.




About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).