By Jeremy Cato
For used car buyers, few models offer the kind of value you get in
an older Integra. So if you’re in the market for a sporty and reliable small
coupe or sedan, put this car down for a test drive.
Among the most affordable versions are the second-generation Integras sold
from 1990-93. Like all Integras, Acura billed this front-wheel-drive model
as a performance car. I guess it all depends on what you consider
performance. The high-output, 160-horsepower GS-R might qualify (it arrived
in 1992), but the more basic models had with fewer hot-rod pretensions.
No doubt this generation of Integra is a sure-footed and easy-to-drive
runabout. But we need to be honest here. The Integra’s underbody
architecture has always been based on the mainstream Honda Civic. Draw what
conclusions you will from that.
The Integra GS, RS and LS models deliver a pleasant compliant ride on the
highway, yet handling is quite tight and controlled during hard cornering.
Give credit there to what was at the time a very stiff body structure for
this class of car. But let’s not forget the Integra’s double-wishbone
four-wheel independent suspension.
Even an older Integra should deliver performance that’s light on cabin
noise (for small cars at this price) and relatively heavy on the
fun-to-drive quotient. No, you won’t exactly tear up the roads in an older
Integra, but for what you’ll spend you’ll get above average power and
From the front seats you’ll also have excellent visibility. That’s because
like all Honda products, the Integra has lots and lots of glass area. With
the engine mounted sideways, the cowl, or dashboard, is quite low and
Compared to rival cars of its day – the Nissan 240SX comes to mind — the
Integra has seating that feels quite high and upright. The seats themselves
were firm and supportive when the car was launched and if they’ve been cared
for, they should have remained so. Lumbar support was not available in the
base model RS, but it did come in the mid-level LS. Adjustable side bolsters
were offered on the top-of-the-line GS. That should give you some direction
when shopping for seating comfort.
From the outside, the styling of the ’90-93 model was pretty slick for its
time. The cars have rounded corners and nearly flush glass, and overall the
lean, aerodynamic lines allow the Integra to knife through the wind with a
then-best-of-class 0.32 coefficient of drag.
Thin roof pillars which, by the way, enhance visibility for passenger and
driver alike, also give the car a very airy, open feeling. Good vision for
the driver enhances safety. On the latter, no airbags were offered for this
generation Integra and neither was traction control.
Power for this generation Integra comes from a 1.8-litre four-cylinder
engine. With 16 valves, this powerplant delivered 130 hp at 6000 rpm. Power
went up to 140 hp with the introduction of the ’92 version.
Those horsepower numbers are almost identical to those posted by the rival
Toyota’s Celica of those years, and slightly less than the 240SX in the
early ’90s. Brakes on the second generation Integra are all the four-wheel
disc variety. Anti-lock braking was an option.
As for actual performance, when new this engine would take you from 0-100
km in just over nine seconds. While the years might have caused the Integra
to lose a step, even used ones today are quite responsive at low speeds. On
the highway expect the engine to get a bit buzzy when pushed towards its
6,500 rpm redline.
A five-speed manual transmission was standard on all Integra models for
this generation. Look for smooth shift action, not to mention shift points
well-suited to city driving. That is, most of the time the engine should
asks for a change of gears at just the right moment in traffic. You’ll find,
for example, that second gear is not so low that the engine is sluggish at
those bumper-to-bumper moments. A four-speed automatic was optional on all
models, but personally I think it robs the car of any real zest.
Inside, you’ll find three sets of seatbelts on the backseat. But even in
the four-door Integra that’s either a sign of optimism or in recognition of
the many short city hauls for which this car is well-suited. Still, the
Integra is roomy for its class, well-thought-out and comfortable.
Reliability has proven to be very, very good, too.
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
Jeremy Cato is an award-winning print and broadcast journalist. He is a columnist and feature writer for the Globe & Mail newspaper and his articles are syndicated to a variety of other publications.