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As cars get safer every year, the IIHS continues to step up its testing criteria to match. With a host of big changes for 2023, many new cars can’t reach the top safety awards. But the safest small car of 2023 is also one of the most disappointing – The Acura Integra.

Where the Acura Integra earns its safety awards

Getting an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus award is harder than ever in 2023. Thanks to updates to both front overlap and side impact tests, fewer cars are taking home top marks than did so in 2022. That said, the 2023 Acura Integra maintains its top safety ratings, despite these tougher criteria.

For one, the Integra boasts the best possible score in the newest side-impact tests. While the original test involved a 3,300-pound barrier moving a 31 mph, the new version adds 82% more energy to the equation. Both the weight and speed of the crash barrier increase to 37 mph and 4,400 pounds, respectively.

In addition, the structure of the crash barrier is now more representative of a real vehicle. The new surface can now bend around the door pillar like an SUV in the real world. This better simulates potential intrusion into the passenger compartment. As such the safest small car of 2023 passes these new tests with flying colors.

Buy it for safety, not for fun

A red Acura Integra side profile with a winding road behind it
2023 Acura Integra | Acura

Despite its link to the mid-90s sports car, the Acura Integra is hardly an engaging drive. The 201-horsepower turbocharged 1.5-liter engine is lackluster in a vehicle of this weight. Furthermore, the humdrum styling and numb steering feel lack the type of engagement expected from a modern sports car.

In that way, it’s more a compact luxury sedan than a true enthusiast special. That moniker is reserved for the hotter Integra Type S, which absolutely has the chops to earn its name.

The base Integra, though, feels a bit too vanilla. Even with its close ties to the Civic Si, the Integra feels too sedate and refined to light any passionate fire behind the wheel. 

The safest small car of 2023 is a quality choice

Acura Integra interior
Acura Integra interior | Acura

Esoteric disappointments aside, the 2023 Acura Integra is a quality vehicle. In addition to being the safest small car of 2023, the compact Acura delivers the premium feel you expect. It’s got a wealth of luxury touches including leather upholstery, multi-zone climate control, and sensational seats.

In addition, it has a wealth of in-car tech including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for easy connectivity.

And then there is the safety tech. Acura LaneWatch earns top safety ratings for crash prevention at both 12 and 25 mph. It also passes the pedestrian avoidance test with flying colors both during the day and at night. In fact, it can avoid a pedestrian walking along the road at speeds of up to 37 mph.

In all, the Acura Integra is a safe, efficient compact luxury car. Just don’t expect it to keep up with your nostalgic expectations.