Currently I am driving a 1990 Acura Integra three-door hatchback. It is not officially mine, and is under my sister's name, but she only drove it for about 6 months before moving to Chicago and leaving the car with me. I've driven it since for quite some time and drove it from 88,000 miles to over 140,000 miles so you can tell I drive it a lot, approximately 52,000 miles from me alone.
I've even driven it in a road trip that lasted about 4.5 hours and back. Now that you are sure that I know what I'm talking about, on with the review.
The styling of this car is very simple, and in my opinion, much better than all the new Acura Integra's. The new Integra's with the little round lights and the stubby back does not look like something I would like to be seen in. Instead, the 1990 Acura Integra looks basically like a zippy little sports car that is also fuel efficient.
The styling is not too boxy like the previous years, and not too round like the following years. It is low to the ground, which is meant to make it more sporty improving turning performance by keeping the center of mass low. However, the downside of this is that I have to make sure not to park too close to the concrete stoppers in a parking space because it directly hits the front bumper, ouch.
The front hood is a bit big for the considerably small engine size, but it also means it's a little more aerodynamic than those cars that have a hood that goes straight up to the windshield (i.e.. Volkswagen Beetle). It has a large front windshield, and the hatchback window, allowing great view out the front and back. It is a three-door model (including hatchback) so the two main doors are big. Allowing for passengers to squeeze into the back seats. Big doors mean big windows, which is great for vision out the sides.
The rear hatchback window also has a windshield wiper, which comes in handy. The antenna is not retractable, which is a plus because I know a lot of cars in which they do not retract anymore, and get stuck half way, but is also a downside because I cannot go through a carwash unless I use a wrench and screw it off, which proved to be harder than it looks. The big brush carwash do not do justice to the rear wiper either, so go for the touch free washes.
The interior of my model is not leather. That is a plus because leather, I found, to be far too slippery when making turns. The downside of having cloth seats is that the cloth is harder to clean.
The front seats are bucket seats, which is very nice because such a small car that's low to the ground turns very well too, even at comparable speeds. Which means without the bucket seats, I would slip and fly around.
The back seats are a bit cramped, and don't allow for much knee room for rear passengers unless you move the front seats forward, which of course, is manual, everything is (except the tranny).
The room in the front for the driver and passenger is actually fairly good. I have some headroom to spare, and plenty of leg room, in expense of the rear passengers when I have any. I can stretch out my left leg and relax, and let my right leg do all the work since it is an automatic transmission.
The console is well laid out. The air-conditioning controls are simple, and easy to reach, and the plastic clear cover for the gauges is curved inward towards the back as it goes down so dust never accumulates on it like on other cars. The numbers are easy to read and it does not light up too bright when you turn on the lights. Unlike some American cars, it has both the speedometer and the rpm meter, which does come in use sometimes because you can throw the gear down one if you need some additional acceleration.
It does not have a box in between the driver and passenger seat. Instead, if you want to store anything, it'll go in the glove compartment, which is quite a reach while driving. Another downside is that it has no airbags what so ever, which would scare some people away. What it does have, is some sort of g-force sensor that detects if you are accelerating or decelerating at a high rate and will automatically lock up the seat belts so they no longer extend out. I'm not too sure how effective this feature is since I have never gotten into an accident in all the time I've driven.
The gear shifter has all the standard functions, such as park, reverse, drive, and no overdrive. The additional feature is a "S3 to S4" switcher, which is like the 3 and 2 on normal gear shifters. When you move it down one from drive, it'll be in S3/S4. You toggle between S3 and S4 with a small button underneath the main release button on the gear shift. While in S4, it'll be just like in drive, meaning automatic transmission up to fourth gear. While in S3, it'll be automatic, except it would not shift any higher than 3rd gear. The use of this is that you can keep the S3/S4 at S3, and while driving in "Drive" you can quickly knock the shift down a notch to immediately switch it down a gear to 3rd to give you a lower gear ratio allowing for faster power.
Your rpm's will immediately jump, from somewhere around 3000 to about 5000 or 6000 depending on how fast you are already going and how fast you accelerate to in 3rd gear before switching back to 4th. This will give you a sharp jolt of acceleration in case you would need it, like switching into a faster lane. Believe me, this is completely safe for the engine, 4 cylinders run better on high rpms than low, and are meant for high rpms. Also, if you step on the accelerator hard enough, it'll automatically shift down a gear to give you that extra acceleration, but doing it manually is much faster.
It has all the standard functions, such as lights, parking lights, fog lights (not on the bottom, but the inner two lights in the front), high beam/low beam, reverse, etc.. The turning signal lights in the front are on the bottom of the front bumper. I'm not sure if there is a specific function of this other than for the looks.
The power steering is very accurate and precise. You can easily maneuver around obstacle and can accurately turn without jerking the wheel around. The turning radius of the car is not the best, but it is very good. You can easily turn this car around in a tight street if you really need to. The suspension of this car is fairly tight, allowing for some turns at comparable speeds if the need ever arises. The front wheel drive system does help in this a little too.
From the information I have, all Acura's come standard with 4-wheel disc brakes. The front disc brakes are far bigger and more powerful than the rear, but most standard braking is done this way. Stopping this car, is fairly easy. Because it is a light car, it doesn't gain as much momentum as some other, heavier, cars. However, also because it is a lighter car, the tires are not pushed down as firm to the ground as it is with a heavier car. In either case, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to stop fast to avoid hitting someone, you'll appreciate the disc brakes.
One thing I really hate is the workmanship of the side panels and such. Recently someone attempted to vandalize the car, which required me to replace the rear bumper and replace the right rear light. Not to mention rewire the car.
I'm fairly competent at autos, but I found that the plastic panels both in the interior front and back are cheaply put together. They are all made of plastic and can break if you tug at it too hard. The designers tried to be creative and instead of screws holding the plastic panels to the car frame, it has flat metal clips that snap into flat rectangular slots in the frame. The problem with that is that it is easy to snap in, but hard to snap out, so the result is a lot of the metal clips separating from the plastic panels causing some parts of the panels to hang off a little.
Another stupid decision made by the designers is how the front plastic panels underneath the main console is put in. I was happy to see screws this time, but quickly discovered what they were screwing into. Instead of screwing directly into the metal frame, the frame has square slots where a small plastic piece snaps in and has the screw hole in there, plus, the holes on the metal frame is not surrounded by metal, but are on the edges making it quite easy for the plastic "buttons" to slip out from the bottom, they'll stay on the plastic panel and the screw, but not to the metal frame.
This car is not very powerful. Instead it depends on it's light weight to give you the performance you want. It depends on weight so much so that adding more people in the car would actually decrease acceleration by small fractions. The decrease is not big and is even hard to notice, but if you drive it as much as I do, you will start to notice that you can pull away from a light much faster when you're alone.
When needed, the car's transmission will detect the amount of pressure on the accelerator pedal. The more pressure, the later it will switch gears. If you would floor it, it will actually stay in 1st gear up until it hits around 7000 rpms before it'll switch to 2nd. This allows for far greater acceleration. I've found that when you really want to, you can get 0-60 times of around 6 seconds, which is very decent considering it is only an inline 4-cylinder.
The car's speedometer shows a top speed of 140mph, but I've found it to be more in the lines of 130mph, which I am not going to admit reaching.... Acceleration after hitting 4th gear is considerably low since the gear ratio is so high it is harder for the engine to turn the wheels, but it will gradually increase to very decent speeds.
This part is very important. I've driven this car extensively and sometimes very hard. Not to mention it is 11 years old and has 140,000 miles put on it, which are not all highway miles either. The car still runs fairly smooth considering the rubber rear engine mounts have deteriorated away, which shakes the car a little when idling, but smoothes out as you bring up the rpms above 1000.
Other than that, the car is extremely reliable and has not given me any major problems. The engine and transmission are both original and still working correctly. Only some minor repairs and tune ups were performed on this car. This is pretty standard for Acura cars.
All-in-all, this car is a great value. I am fairly confident that the new Integra's are much improved from my year and model, but if you can find one from 1990 that has been well maintained and in good working condition, it is a great economic value since the price is dropping as time passes. I wouldn't be surprised if you find a well-maintained one now for around $4,000. It is very easy to drive and will not give you much problems. It is most appropriate for the female community, but wouldn't be too hard to fit to a guy, especially for the price.
Notice to teens: This, and all other Japanese 4-cylinder cars, are not "high performance phat cars" that need to be "hooked up" with "phat rims" and the big huge ridiculous exhaust. It is simply a great quality car that is great to own for a long time and will bring you from point A to point B with great precision and even above average speed. I consider it more quick than fast.
Amount Paid (US$):
1990Model and Options:
RL-Automatic tranny, 4-speed