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The black dashboard and red front seats of a 2023 Acura Integra with a CVT

The 2023 Acura Integra Has a Standard CVT and That’s OK

Some car enthusiasts aren't too excited that the 2023 Acura Integra comes standard with a CVT. However, the decision makes a lot of sense from an engineering and a business perspective. And the optional manual does come with a limited-slip differential as standard.

2023 Acura Integra CVT discussion article highlights:

  • Even though it’s replacing a car with a DCT, the 2023 Acura Integra has a standard CVT
  • Offering a standard CVT makes sense given the new Integra’s 2022 Civic-based platform, the brand’s luxury status, and the niche appeal of manual transmissions
  • You can get the 2023 Integra with a manual, though—it just costs extra

We’ve waited for months, and now, the 2023 Acura Integra has finally shown the world its production-ready face. However, some peoples’ joy soured when they saw that the 2023 Integra comes standard with a CVT (continuously variable transmission). But don’t let that dampen your spirits, especially not before you drive it. And as I’m about to explain, Acura giving its resurrected hatchback a CVT instead of a standard stick makes sense.

It has paddle shifters, but the 2023 Acura Integra has a CVT, not the ILX’s DCT

The black dashboard and red front seats of a 2023 Acura Integra with a CVT
2023 Acura Integra A-Spec with CVT dashboard | Acura

Now, the terms ‘performance car’ and ‘CVT’ usually only appear together in a sentence if ‘doesn’t have a’ is between them. Usually, if an automaker is serious about speed, it uses a DCT (dual-clutch transmission) with paddle shifters and snappy shifts. Hence why a subset of enthusiasts is upset that the reborn Acura Integra has a CVT, which is usually more associated with droning than performing. And the fact that it has standard paddle shifters seemingly isn’t helping.

What’s also arguably not helping is the car that the 2023 Integra is replacing, the Acura ILX. It’s only available with an eight-speed DCT. Also, some Honda motorcycles offer an excellent six-speed DCT. So, why couldn’t Acura put one of those transmissions into the new Integra? As it turns out, for several reasons.

Firstly, the 2023 Integra is based on the current Civic, which is exclusively turbocharged. Meanwhile, while the ILX’s engine has a Civic lineage, it’s a naturally-aspirated unit. More specifically, The Drive notes, it’s a K-series engine that stems from the 2001 Civic Si. It’s unrelated to the 2022 Civic lineup’s L-series engine, so it’s not like Acura could just swap the ILX’s DCT in.

Admittedly, Honda once offered L-series engines with DCTs. The Fit Hybrid, for example, had this kind of powertrain. However, not only is the Fit gone from the US, but its DCT was designed with hybrid applications in mind. The 2023 Acura Integra and 2022 Civic aren’t hybrids, so modifying that DCT would take time and money, which would inflate both cars’ price tags.

Also, just because Honda has a motorcycle DCT doesn’t mean it’s compatible with Honda cars. They have some similarities, but motorcycle transmissions aren’t engineered like car ones.  It’s not like BMW puts its bikes’ gearboxes in its cars or vice versa.

The 2023 Acura Integra’s CVT makes sense because it’s a luxury Civic Si Hatchback

But Acura’s decision to put a standard CVT in the 2023 Integra likely wasn’t solely based on engineering issues. It might also have to do with what the new Integra is. And that ‘what’ is a premium Civic Si Hatchback without a Honda badge.

Some were left scratching their heads when Honda decided that the 2022 Civic Si would only be available as a sedan. But now that the 2023 Integra is here, that decision makes sense, as does the CVT one. And not just because the new Integra has the Civic Si’s 200-hp engine.

As The Drive points out, a reasonably-priced hatchback with a manual is a beloved enthusiast recipe. However, enthusiast-focused vehicles don’t always make a lot of money for the automaker. And keep in mind, Acura is a luxury brand. Going manual-only is a great way to endear yourself to enthusiasts, but plenty of luxury-car buyers aren’t enthusiasts and/or can’t drive stick for whatever reason. So, how do you give the enthusiasts and regular customers what they want without going broke? Make the more-niche enthusiast choice the more expensive one.

Et voila, the 2023 Acura Integra. It’s based on the 2022 Civic, which is a blast to drive, especially in Si form. However, it pairs those dynamics with the Civic Si’s more powerful engine—essentially an up-tuned version of the standard 1.5-liter engine—with a less demanding-to-drive CVT. But enthusiasts still get a bone because the higher Integra trims do offer an optional six-speed manual. On paper, it’s a win-win-win.

You can still get it with a stick—and there could be a Type S

So, if you do want that third pedal in your 2023 Integra, it’s going to cost extra. As of this writing, Acura hasn’t released official Integra pricing details. But the base model starts at roughly $30K, and a manual is an option on the more expensive A-Spec trims. So, figure $30,000-$35,000 for a stick-shift Integra.

If you’re still unconvinced about the CVT thing, know that performance cars with CVTs aren’t unheard-of. The latest Subaru WRX offers a CVT, for example, as does the Lexus LC500h. Also, while the manual costs extra in the Integra, it comes standard with a limited-slip differential, The Drive reports.

However, there’s something else to keep in mind. A not-insignificant number of enthusiasts will likely be holding out for an Integra Type S. As of this writing, that’s still a hypothetical model. Acura trademarked the ‘Integra Type S’ name several months ago, but that’s not guaranteed proof that it’s coming. If it is, though, using the Civic Type R’s drivetrain, manual and all, would be the logical decision.

Regardless, don’t be sad that the 2023 Acura Integra has a standard CVT. Acura hasn’t killed the manual, but it has broadened its resurrected entry-level hatchback’s appeal.

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