Acura, the up-market luxury and performance arm of Honda, launched its first two cars in Canada in the spring of 1987. Integra, a sleek compact 2-door or 4-door hatchback with pop-up headlights, was the entry-level junior partner of the pair.
A second generation Integra, which was really a totally different vehicle, was launched three years later. It had a new chassis, a double wishbone 4-wheel independent suspension, 4-wheel disc brakes and a new engine. Jumping forward another four years brings us to the subject of this review, the third generation Acura Integra, and another major redesign.
Easy to recognise, with its distinctive small projector beam headlights, the ’94 Integra came as a 3-door coupe or a 4-door sedan and in three trim levels RS, LS and GS-R.
The standard engine is a 1.8 litre 4-cylinder that produces 140 horsepower and a high revving VTEC version pumps out 170 hp in the GS-R. This high-output engine uses premium fuel, the extra power is in the high end of its rev range and it only comes mated with a special close-ratio 5-speed manual transmission.
Fuel consumption is the same with either engine 9.6-l/100km in the city and 7-l/100 km on the highway. An automatic transmission, available with the other trim levels, has a grade-logic control system that helps prevent the 3-4 gear shift dance you get with some 4-speed automatics on moderate up-hill sections of road.
The Integra suspension is definitely on the firm side, in keeping with its sporty personality. Although officially a five-seater coupe, the rear seat is a tight fit for an average sized adult. The sedan is a better choice if you need seating for more than two adults as it has more rear passenger room, due to a longer wheelbase a slightly taller body.
On the safety and security front, this is the first Integra to offer standard air bags and good side-impact protection. Unfortunately it’s also a popular car with auto thieves, so a security system is probably a good investment.
A new SE trim level between LS and GS-R was introduced in ’96. It had 15″ wheels, leather upholstery, a spoiler and other stuff borrowed from the GS-R trim level. All the sedan versions were dropped in ’97 and a new Type-R coupe was introduced.
Timing belt wear will occur on engines with high kilometres on the clock. Acura timing belts are supposed to be good for 140,000 km, however a change by 100,000 km is probably a prudent move. A timing belt failure on this type of engine can be catastrophic, valves hit pistons and create an expensive to repair mechanical mess.
A weak retaining clip on the automatic transmission shift lever cable may cause incorrect gear selection, on a ’94 Integra. The position of the shift lever may not match the actual transmission gear position.
Durability isn’t usually associated with a performance-orientated car but the Integra is an exception. The Acura Integra is not just a fun car to drive, with any luck it’ll also be a trouble-free ownership experience.
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.
A senior member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), Bob McHugh is a regular contributor to numerous automotive publications as well as Senior Technical Advisor at the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA).