The best cars in the world cost less than $50,000. There’s so much value, so much fun, and so much excellence outside of mid-engined supercars or powerful rear-wheel-drive sports coupes. The core of automotive enthusiasm today is a car like the 2024 Acura Integra Type S.
When you have your choice of incredible cars that are at the very least near affordable, where does a $51,995 liftback that is mechanically practically identical to the $44,890 Honda Civic Type R land? Well, Acura would love for you to compare it to a compact luxury performance car like an Audi S3, but let’s be real—folks are cross-shopping this with marked-up Civic Type Rs, comparing it to the Toyota GR Corolla and Hyundai Elantra N. Anecdotally, Type S buyers were never looking at an Audi, Benz, or BMW but were looking for a true sport compact, a new generation of Integra Type R.
And therein lies the problem: The Civic Type R is mastered beautifully. Improving upon near-perfection is harder than you think, but Acura really tried. I’m less sure that it succeeded.
|2024 Acura Integra Type S Specs
|Base Price (as tested)
|2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder | 6-speed manual | front-wheel drive
|320 @ 6,500 rpm
|310 lb-ft @ 2,600-4,000 rpm
|24.3 cubic feet
|EPA Fuel Economy
|21 mpg city | 28 highway | 24 combined
|A really good car that is simply different from the Civic Type R. But not better.
When I mean mechanically identical, I mean virtually the same. The Integra Type S takes the Type R’s K20C1 engine (weirdly rebranded as K20C8 seemingly as a parts catalog padding exercise), dual-axis front suspension, springs and dampers, sway bars, steering rack, Brembo brakes—you get the idea. Where it’s physically different is a modified exhaust system that removes the front resonator for more sound, and the Integra liftback bodyshell that everything bolts to.
Where Acura made the difference is in calibration and careful choice of Vibe. Nearly every single system has been reprogrammed on the Type S: The adaptive dampers, throttle calibration, and electronic power steering assist are all different, and the engine gets a slightly hotter tune (a little more boost, slightly more timing, and a leaner air/fuel mix) compared to the CTR. The Type S was engineered by a different team of folks, separate from the Civic, and had a different goal. As far as I can tell, that goal was simple: Don’t be a Type R. Be an entry-level luxury sport liftback.
Acura took the rather sober design of the CTR and made the Integra the standout looker of the pair. Those fender flares are not tacked on but actually molded into the panels. Their aggressive look helps visually compress the Type S while communicating the imposing width of the thing. The lack of rear wing balances the aggression (Acura claims the Type S needs no wing to make sufficient downforce), but deploys subtle aerodynamic tricks that the CTR doesn’t use. Air curtains guide air around the turbulent front wheels while extra ducting was added around the intercooler to smooth flow.
I’d say that Acura achieved the FK8 Type R’s mechatronic aggression with proper restraint. But where the Type S immediately and most obviously falls short is in the interior. There is simultaneously more equipment but less substance. Instead of the CTR’s unbelievable seats, the Type S gets generic, hard, and frankly unacceptable thrones for the price or intent. Acura says the seats were specifically developed and enhanced for the Type S, but they don’t offer any form of ass support and certainly don’t provide lateral support for the Type S’ prodigious cornering performance. In almost every direction, they are a downgrade compared to its Honda cousin. At least they’re heated.
It’s an interior space that feels distinctly unspecial whereas the CTR’s cabin is one of the most special, driver-focused spaces money can buy. There are splashes of pizzazz, with the shift knob, shifter surround, and perforated leather steering wheel being particularly nice, but you don’t get the uber-cool shift lights from the CTR nor do you get any kind of performance displays with granular readouts. You do get an ELS Studio stereo that is heavy on bass and thin on treble, some nicely trimmed surfaces, and a head-up display.
But here’s the real problem: It’s basically the interior from the $38,295 Integra A-Spec. No bueno, Acura. This is where luxury lives and dies, and this is what firmly holds the Type S back from entering the country club.
Driving the Acura Integra Type S
Despite the resounding crash of my bottom into its church-pew hard seats, the Integra Type S still has intent in its veins. Its true character is that of a hot hatch with an elegant edge.
Immediately, the shifting experience is a standout. Its light, notchy, short action pairs with a small, contoured knob. Clutch engagement is easy and light, while Acura’s recalibrated throttle mapping is less blippy but more authoritative than the CTR’s. It is a joy to use, with good pedal placement for heel-toe downshifting, and easily the highlight of the car. I was sure Acura spec'd a different shifter assembly for the Type S, but they claim it's just the knob that was changed. Either way, it is Quite Good.
Pleasurable is the word for the powertrain. The engine calibration does feel different to the Type R; fatter powerband, warmer throttle response, and a hell of a lot less fake engine sound. It’s still there, but Acura judged it to perfection, allowing the Type S-specific exhaust to do its job. There’s an incredibly mild burble tune that activates in Sport+ which offers a tasteful pop or two before shutting up and has a deep, barking tone that makes tooling around town a joy. It does get drowned out at higher speeds, unfortunately.
This tasteful judgment continues and is most prominent in the suspension. The Type S is supple in all three of its damping modes (Comfort, Sport, and Sport+), makes use of all of its relatively short travel, and is even more impressive considering it uses the exact same hardware as the rougher-riding CTR. To put it shortly, that car can ride like shit but handles like a psychopath. The Type S gets rid of the uncertainty and always manages bumps well. My butt dyno says Acura retuned the adaptive damper behavior at the very end of suspension travel. Instead of a huge progressive ramp-up in damping like the CTR, the Type S is more linear if not digressive.
The beauty of the adaptive dampers on the Type S (and CTR) is that they are constantly changing and responding to inputs hundreds of times per second from a g-meter, yaw sensor, ABS data, as well as ride height sensors at each corner. The Type S proves just how flexible adaptive dampers can be in character and performance. It feels like a totally different car.
It’s not the swivel-eyed rotation-crazy CTR, but a more stable, mature performance car that is less intimidating to drive quickly. The electronic power steering is slightly heavier but has slightly less damping and filtering applied. Whispers of torque steer twist the wheel in your hands while there’s a much more pronounced sensation of tire slip; the peak and subsequent dropoff are much easier to read.
But the overall handling balance suffers from the softness. While it’s impressive what the Type S can achieve, it’s the most stable of the current hot hatches. It settles into a gentle, hugely grippy push that makes finding the edge extremely easy but doesn’t give me many options to work with. It was unflappable, supremely confident, and extremely impressive, but it didn’t light my hair on fire or set my coccyx on edge with rotation. It simply obeyed and did not bother talking back. Premium, shmemium, give me more death.
As I grew into the Type S over a week, however, things started making more sense. Where the CTR is optimized for fun driving while still being a seriously great everyday car, the Type S is actually nicer to live with. The ride quality pays dividends over broken pavement. The shifter, clutch, and throttle are some of the best this side of cars that start with P and end in orsche, and there’s a warmth that radiates from the experience of the Type S that can be firmly categorized as intangible.
OK, yeah, it’s practically not much quieter (if at all) than the CTR at highway speeds, and I don’t think the ELS Stereo is a meaningful improvement in sound quality over the Civic’s Bose (unless you love bwompy, ‘90s subwoofer box-style bass), and my ass is still sore from the seats, but there’s something here. But it’s something that needs convincing and is not clearly obvious.
The Highs and Lows
The Type S answers a niche within a niche: It’s a reasonably comfortable, mature sport compact that has the performance to leave everyone else in the dust. It’s the least compromising to drive every day, and it's one of the best-looking of the bunch. Truly, the Type S’ trump card is that god-tier shifter that almost single-handedly makes the car so engaging on the everyday commute.
But the real issue is that you don’t necessarily get more value for money. I’ve compared it to the CTR a lot here, but when the cheaper car gets magnitudes better seats, an already genuinely nice interior with a good stereo, a cooler gauge cluster with more readouts, and all the Type S really has is a head-up display, some leather, and heated seats, it’s a problem.
Acura Integra Type S Features, Options, and Competition
The world demands more hot hatches and accessible performance cars, so the market for a $50,000-ish sporty car is red hot. It competes with the Audi S3, Mercedes-AMG CLA35, and BMW M235i Gran Coupe in price, but also goes right up against the Honda Civic Type R, Toyota GR Corolla, and Hyundai Elantra N in terms of vibe.
There are no make-or-break options with the Integra Type S, but a lot of cosmetic fluff. Premium paint costs $600, a carbon fiber tailgate spoiler is $950, and getting the standard 19-inch wheels painted in copper costs a staggering $2,186.
But the Type S does come with a standard suite of excellent advanced driver’s assistance systems, including lane keep, adaptive cruise, blind spot monitoring, and automatic emergency braking. The ELS Studio stereo is standard, as is the head-up display and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Integra Type S isn’t the most frugal car but is on par with its competitors in the sport compact segment. However, it falls short against its entry-level luxury car rivals.
Observed fuel economy during my 350 miles with the Type S was about 25 mpg over a variety of conditions, with plenty of highway driving, a healthy dose of canyon carving, and some city driving.
Value and Verdict
The 2024 Acura Integra Type S is a Civic Type R for normies. It takes the edge off, makes the experience more palatable, looks way cooler, and is still a true hot hatch. But it doesn’t swing far enough the other way into being a convincing entry-level performance luxury car.
I could challenge Acura more on its claim of competing with the S3, CLA35, and M235i Gran Coroll—er, Coupe. But it would do a disservice to the Type S because it is easily way more of a driver’s car than any of those Europeans. It would also expose that the Type S feels a little underequipped, last-gen, and unrefined compared to those cars. It’s not a convincing matchup, not without more tech, better seats, and maybe even a dual-clutch transmission.
Where it really belongs is with the goth kids, the sport compacts, the edgy weirdos that give life a bit of color compared to those Euro jocks. It’s a bit more expensive than the rest of them, but look at it this way: It’s better to have more flavors of the Civic Type R than fewer, right?
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