The BMW M235i Gran Coupe was easily one of the most heavily criticized Bimmers of the modern era when it first debuted. Its controversial styling, front-wheel drive-based chassis, and lackluster dynamics made it an immediate punching bag for BMW enthusiasts. While it isn’t quite as bad in reality as many fans make it out to be, it’s certainly one of BMW’s weaker offerings. Adding insult to injury is its price, a hefty $45,500 starting price. Which leads me to my question: should you buy the Acura Integra instead?

Without question, the small premium sedan segment is extraordinarily popular in the ‘States. Suburbanites love them some sub-$40,000, badge-engineered sedans that makes it look like they have money without actually having to spend too much. Which is why the 2 Series Gran Coupe, Audi A3, and Mercedes-Benz A-Class sell so well. Now that the new Acura Integra is here, though, it has a real chance of upsetting all of those German brands.

Based on the Honda Civic Si

The new 2023 Acura Integra, which brings the beloved nameplate back, does the same thing the aforementioned Germans do–take a less expensive, front-wheel drive car, add some premium flavor to it, give it a tweak or two, and call it a day. And yet the Integra seems like a much more desirable product than any of those small Germans, especially the overpriced M235i Gran Coupe. But why?

For starters, the Integra is built on a car that’s more fun than most of the Germans’ base cars, the new Honda Civic Si. The new Civic Si is a massive hit among enthusiasts, for its superb chassis and handling, peppy engine, and slick six-speed manual transmission. Acura takes that same recipe, adds its own style, a more premium cabin, tweaked the steering and suspension a bit, gave its engine a specific software tune, and upgraded it to have adaptive dampers, something the Civic Si doesn’t have.

Admittedly, the cabin of the Integra looks nearly identical to the Civic Si’s, just with some nicer materials, and its interior can get a bit noisy on the highway, as it’s not as well insulated as its more premium German competitors. But that’s the price you pay to have a properly sporty little car.

A smaller 1.5 liter turbo

The Acura Integra is way down on power compared to the BMW M235i Gran Coupe. The Bimmer uses a 2.0-liter turbo-four to make 302 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. While the Integra uses the Civic Si’s exact same 1.5-liter turbo-four, with 200 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. It gets from 0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds, which is over two seconds slower than the M235i. However, the Integra has something the M235i can only dream of–make its driver smile.

With only 3,100 lbs to carry around, the Integra is several hundreds of pounds lighter than the M235i, and its six-speed manual will excite enthusiasts more than the M235i’s Aisin eight-speed auto.

But here’s the real kicker–price. The Acura Integra starts at $31,895, around $13,000 less than the M235i. And yet it’s still premium inside, has modern technology, and it’s even more practical due to its 4 Series Gran Coupe-style hatchback. While the Integra’s price is more in line with the BMW 228i Gran Coupe, it’s allure is great enough that it could genuinely challenge the more expensive M235i.

While I can’t say for certain whether you should buy an Acura Integra over an M235i Gran Coupe, nor can I say for certain the former is better to drive without actually driving it, the team at Acura seem to have a much more compelling package than BMW. The Integra offers a great little niche that many enthusiasts might find very attractive.

There are likely tons of car enthusiasts on the market that like the idea of owning a Honda Civic Si, for its great handling, slick manual transmission, efficient engine, and good looks, but it’s just not premium enough. The BMW M235i Gran Coupe (along with the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class) is premium enough but it lacks the fun factor the Civic Si seems to have (judging by drive reviews).

The Acura Integra seems to want to bridge that gap, offering what is essentially a more premium Civic Si to premium customers, while also offering a price tag that makes customers’ wallets happy. Again, without actually driving it, we can’t determine one way or another. But we can’t wait to find out.