How in the World Did the Acura Integra Win the 2023 North American Car of the Year Award?
The North American Car, Truck, and Utility Vehicle of the Year (NACTOY) Award is one of the most prestigious distinctions in the automotive industry. It’s bestowed upon the continent’s best new car annually by a group of independent automotive journalists. Winning the award can significantly impact a vehicle’s sales and reputation, but it may also put forward more questions than answers. So, how did the new Acura Integra win it?
North American Car of the Year selection process
The NACTOY committee is staffed with 50 jurors that seek to determine the year’s best vehicle. To be eligible, a car must be completely new or substantially redesigned for the current model year. Once the list is established, the jurors evaluate the vehicles based on a set of criteria. They include but are not limited to innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction, and value.
Jurors have several months to test drive and evaluate the vehicles before voting. They are also asked to comment on each vehicle they evaluate and provide their overall score. And, no, manufacturers don’t pay jurors to rate their cars higher or even for participating in the process.
North American Car of the Year finalists 2023
NACTOY’s jurors rated 47 vehicles in total. Out of that group, they selected 26 semifinalists through a vote, then the final nine with further testing. In the car category, three were chosen as finalists. For large sedans, the Genesis G80 Electrified; for compact sedans, the Acura Integra; and for sports cars, the all-new Nissan Z.
In the end, the jurors selected the 2023 Acura Integra, the rebirth of the performance-inclined nameplate. While the Integra is a perfectly adequate car, reviewers and enthusiasts have been rather sharp about Acura. Many claim it to be a disappointment considering the hype surrounding its return. So, how did it win the award?
2023 Acura Integra drawbacks
There are numerous reasons to pass on the 2023 Acura Integra. Although it has a starting MSRP in the mid-$30,000 range, the Integra doesn’t have the luxurious interior it needs to remain competitive in the segment. Realistically, potential buyers will likely have to spec the Integra up with its two trim packages. The base Integra is rather sparse.
One of the most annoying parts of the Acura Integra is its lack of performance compared with segment competitors. Its 200-horsepower 1.5-liter Honda turbo-four is adequate for everyday driving conditions, but it doesn’t scream athleticism. This is particularly worrying when the new Prius Prime will beat the Integra to 60 mph by a considerable margin.
Although everything right about the Integra is reassuringly Honda, that’s sort of the problem. Most of the car is a Civic with Honda crossed out and Acura written in crayon. However, the fuss may be more based on an enthusiast’s perspective than a NACTOY juror.
Why the Acura Integra win the North American Car of the Year Award
In a NACTOY press release, Motor Authority’s Kirk Bell sheds some light on the situation. He explained that the Integra is “Fun to drive and economical; it’s the type of car I would look forward to driving every day.” Moreover, NACTOY President Gary Witzenberg added, “The Honda Civic-based Acura Integra looks good, drives well, and is among the very few in its (or any) segment offering a slick-shifting manual transmission.”
Although many of us lamented the rather lazy attempt by Acura to redress a Civic, it seems that maybe they thought, “Why improve it?” Given the Honda Civic’s already legendary 11th-generation compact sedan, why bother? Kudos to Acura for one-upping the Civic’s front fascia on what is most likely the best-looking one ever made.
It seems to win the NACTOY Award, you just have to be good at being a car, not clenching to a nameplate’s history. Whereas many thought the Integra lacked in panache, it actually got the formula correct in many people’s eyes. For them, the Acura Integra may not be the continent’s premier compact luxury sports sedan, but it certainly seems to be the best car.