2002 Acura RSX
2002 Acura RSX. Photos: Honda. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

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Introduced in 2001 as a 2002 model, the Acura RSX replaced the Integra, and it had a pretty simple mission – to provide the same big driving fun as the Integra did without costing a lot more money. While some have argued that the RSX was too grown up to be taken seriously as the Integra’s successor, the RSX has won the hearts of many people who felt the Integra didn’t hide it’s Honda Civic-based roots well enough.

A new 2002 RSX did cost more than the outgoing Integra – by about six per cent on average – but what you got for the money made it worthwhile. The RSX was a more mature car – still quick, still sporting athletic lines, but a little more refined.

The RSX was available only with a two-door hatchback body style with a decent-sized, if shallow, cargo area. There was no RSX sedan, as there had been with the Integra. The TSX sedan, launched in 2004, was loosely regarded as a sedan companion to the RSX, though it is a much different car underneath.

2002 Acura RSX

2002 Acura RSX

2002 Acura RSX
2002 Acura RSX. Photos: Honda. Click image to enlarge

When it was introduced, some criticized the RSX for being heavier than the Integra. Depending on how the car was optioned, it did indeed weigh between 50 and 100 kg more than the Integra, but for good reasons: improved sound deadening, a stiffer structure and excellent crash protection. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash test results gave the RSX a five-star rating for the driver and front passenger in that organization’s frontal crash test, and a four-star rating in side impact testing, results that put the RSX at the top of its class for crashworthiness. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety didn’t test the RSX.

Like the Integra, the RSX was still based on the Civic (the seventh-generation model introduced in 2001) but it’s tough to tell by looking at it, much less driving it. The Civic-based suspension set-up was tuned to give it a sportier feel, especially in the top-of-the-line Type-S model.

The 2002-2006 RSX was available in three flavours: base, premium and Type-S. All were very well equipped, featuring standard air conditioning, cruise control, and a CD stereo. As well driver, passenger and side airbags were standard on all models. ABS was available only on the Premium and Type-S models, as was a sunroof. Base models rode on 195/65R15 tires while the Premium and Type-S were fitted with 205/55R16s.

The Type-S featured a firmer suspension tuning than the lesser models, and also had thicker anti-roll bars to reduce body lean in turns. The Type-S is noticeably sportier and that firmer suspension also tends to make for a slightly noisier drive.

Base and premium models featured a 2.0 litre four cylinder engine equipped with i-VTEC (the “i” stands for intelligent), a more advanced version of Honda’s well-known variable valve timing system. That engine produced 160 hp at 6,500 rpm and 141 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The Type-S was powered by the same engine, but with stronger internal components and a more aggressive version of the i-VTEC system that boosted output to 200 hp at 7,400 rpm. Torque increased incrementally to 142 lb-ft at 6000 rpm.

The Type-S was only available with one transmission option – a six-speed manual. Base and Premium cars had a 5-speed manual as standard equipment, and a five-speed automatic with a manual-shift feature was optional.

In 2005, Type-S models got a 10-horsepower boost to 210, but new horsepower calculation standards introduced after that meant that 2006 models were rated at 201 horsepower, and non Type-S cars now had 155 horsepower instead of 160.

Both cars behave similarly in normal driving situations with good throttle response and mid-range torque, but the big difference between the base/Premium and the Type-S models came at higher engine speeds, when the more aggressive i-VTEC tuning came on line and the extra 40 hp really made itself apparent. The Type-S’ close ratio six-speed gearbox was a good match for that model’s high-revving engine, though its overall gearing is shorter, which means higher engine speeds in highway driving.

Depending on the model year, fuel consumption ranges from about 8.5 L/100 km (city) and 6.5 to 7 L/100 km (highway) for base models. Numbers for Type-S versions are more like 10 to 10.5 L/100 km (city) and 7 to 7.5 L/100 km (highway).

Side airbags were standard in all RSXs, but ABS was not available in base model cars until 2005, when it too became standard across the board. Traction/stability control was never on the menu at all.

The RSX’s reliability history is generally solid, and most problems that do crop up, if posts on RSX-related web forums are any indication, have more to do with driver skill or hard driving than the robustness of the car. One common problem centres around the manual transmissions, and specifically, a grind when shifting from first to second gear. There are also reports of noisy front ends, and the electronic engine control units are apparently thief-bait in San Francisco, though there’s little doubt this is common in other major cities, too. The common belief is that these units are stolen and sold to or used by Honda Civic drivers who have swapped an RSX-S motor into their car.

Consumer Reports lists the RSX as a recommended used car buy, but advises staying away from 2005 and 2006 models, which seem prone to suspension problems, though they don’t go into detail.

The RSX commands fairly high prices in the used car marketplace thanks to Acura’s (and parent company Honda’s) reputation for building durable cars. According to the Canadian Red Book, a three-year-old 2002 RSX is worth $12,975, while a 2006 Type-S carries a value of $29,425. Despite Honda/Acura’s reputation for commanding premium prices on the used market, it is possible to find examples selling for close to their Red Book values, but you have to look for them. For a price close to the magic $20,000 mark, look for a 2004 RSX Premium (which looked much like a Type-S but without the high-strung motor and six-speed tranny) or a 2003 Type-S.

Despite their relatively high resale values, the RSX represents an excellent choice as a used car for the buyer looking for a sporty ride. Perhaps the only caveat is that the RSX appeals to aggressive younger drivers, so it would be wise to have the car checked by a trusted mechanic before you buy to make sure it hasn’t been abused.

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Online resources

  • ClubRSX.com – This very busy forum is dedicated exclusively to the RSX, making it a great place to start in your search for information. Check the Problems and Solutions sections for discussions related to RSX reliability.
  • Temple of VTEC – This is the RSX discussion section at VTEC.net (aka Temple of VTEC), a highly-trafficked Honda forum.
  • RSXZone.com – Not as busy as the ClubRSX site, but there’s still useful info to be found here.
  • The RSX sections at AcuraWorld.com and AcuraInspired.com are also good places to look.



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.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

Chris Chase is an Ottawa-based automotive journalist.

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