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    Modern Cars with Retro Performance Appeal

    By Philip Ruth–

    As we tip into fall, my mind goes to coastal trips—maybe Bolinas or Sea Ranch—and finding a fun car for the twisty roads that lead there. The two we’re examining this time, the Honda Civic Si and Acura Integra A-Spec Tech, are modern versions of models that burn brightly in my memory.

    A new 1999 Civic Si got me from the East Coast to the middle of dot-com-bubble San Francisco, and out of the many cars I’ve owned, it’s the only new car I’ve ever bought. Then at a press event at the Willow Springs racetrack, I landed the keys to an Integra Type R, the hottest and lightest version.

    I wouldn’t say I hogged that car—I did my three laps and would respectfully pass it on—but every time it sat for more than 10 seconds or so, I was back in it, nailing apexes and sending the revs soaring. Could have done it all day. 

    The Integra has historically grown from the Civic platform, and that’s still the case. These two share the same turbocharged 1.5-liter engine with 200 horsepower, along with the same six-speed manual transmission. They felt equally powerful both in city driving and highway passing. The manual shifter is smooth with short throws, and the burly exhaust notes round out their focus on being speedy. 

    Both handle with more than enough reserve for public roads. They resist running wide of your intended path through a curve, and steering is communicative, with a firm response. Though even with the dynamic variations with Acura’s Adaptive Damping System (ADS), this Civic Si and Integra A-Spec drove much alike. 

    The Integra’s styling has lit up the internet, with people questioning whether it was an appropriate successor for the iconic ‘90s version. A fellow car enthusiast said something to that effect when I pulled up. He said he really wanted to like it, but even with the edgy headlights and grille that express the Acura brand, he said, “The profile still looks too much like a Civic.”

    That’s less true inside, where despite the identical control layouts, the instrument panels are sculpted differently. The Integra’s molds a central focus, while the Civic has a full-length vent panel that adds the right touch of ritz. Both had supportive front bucket seats, and the Integra A-Spec Tech had gloriously grippy microsuede inserts, which are part of the Tech package.

    Who would buy the Acura, or the Honda? Price is a good place to start, with the tested Civic Si adding the $395 Blazing Orange paint option for a $29,190 bottom line. The Integra A-Spec Tech’s $500 Liquid Carbon finish, along with features like power moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, and a head-up display, boosted the final tally to $37,395. 

    So, the answer lies in how much modern car you want with your retro performance. The Civic Si neatly covers the bases, while the Integra A-Spec Tech adds items that appeal to the premium-car buyer. Which would you choose?

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant with an automotive staging service.

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    Published on October 6, 2022