To the intrigue of many compact-car enthusiasts, Acura brought back its Integra nameplate for 2023 after a long hiatus. Based on parent company Honda’s Civic, the Integra hatchback debuted with practicality and value in spades but performance that was a bit underwhelming.
Thankfully, that changes with the new 2024 Integra Type S. Essentially Acura’s more luxurious take on the Civic Type R, the Integra Type S counts a more powerful engine, stronger brakes, and sharper handling and sportier styling among its upgrades.
While Acura was away from the performance hatch segment, Volkswagen has been honing its Golf R to a fine point. The latest 2024 Golf R boasts a specialized all-wheel-drive system, a strong turbocharged engine, and all of the hatchback practicality and German-engineered comfort this car is known for.
Which of these hatchbacks is the better buy? Edmunds’ car experts compare them to find out.
The Volkswagen Golf R comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed automatic. This turbo-four makes a healthy 315 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, though getting the manual drops output slightly by 15 lb-ft.
Of the two combos, Edmunds found the automatic makes the most of the engine. In testing, the Golf R ripped from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds.
The Integra Type S’ turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes a similar amount of power: 320 horsepower and 310 lb-ft. A six-speed manual is the only transmission offered, however, and it routes power through the front wheels. As such, off-the-line acceleration isn’t as quick, with the Type S needing 5.7 seconds to get to 60 mph.
Once rolling, the two cars are pretty even, but the advantages of the Golf R’s traction-enhancing all-wheel drive and quick-shifting automatic are undeniable.
Winner: Golf R
You’d think Volkswagen would have perfected the Golf R’s interior design after all these years, but the latest generation is a disappointment. The control interface utilizes a lot of touch-sensitive controls on the dash and steering wheel that look high-tech but are actually frustrating and distracting to use.
At least the fundamentals are here with comfortable seating and a hatchback cargo area that’s pretty helpful for fitting bulky items when you fold down the rear seats.
While the Integra Type S is more liftback than hatchback, it actually has more cargo space behind its rear seats than the Golf R. Additionally, its interior quality is better. The climate controls and screens are easier to operate and the seating position and materials and feel of higher quality. Even the rear seating is roomier in the Integra.
Winner: Integra Type S
The Golf R provides a lot of all-around versatility. Its special all-wheel-drive system, besides providing extra traction for wintertime driving, also helps to sharpen the car’s handling when powering out of turns. It also has a relatively comfortable ride over bumps and is pretty quiet on the highway.
Both daily commuting and road trips are enjoyable with a Golf R.
Acura’s Integra Type S is also impressively civilized for daily driving. Yet it clearly stands out in the way it more directly involves the driver in the experience. The engaging handling and steering will make you seek out turns at every opportunity and the shifter has an enjoyable tactile feel.
The Integra’s transmission can also rev-match the engine to make downshifts quicker and easier.
Winner: Integra Type S
Acura starts the 2024 Integra Type S off at $51,995, including destination. Considering the driving experience, the price certainly seems fair.
Nearly all of the Integra’s available features come standard, including a premium audio system, a 9-inch center touch screen, and a collection of advanced driver aids such as adaptive cruise control and blind-spot warning.
The 2024 Volkswagen Golf R also comes well equipped with a similar set of standard features as those on the Integra Type S. If you like ventilated front seats, then the Golf R will be your car since the Type S lacks them. The VW is also less expensive to start at $46,605.
Winner: Golf R
It’s a close race, and both of these cars are excellent. If you go by which is the best to drive and live with every day, the Acura Integra Type S pulls ahead. It’s a sharp-looking car that strikes a wonderful balance between sport compact and entry-level luxury.
But buyers wanting an automatic transmission or all-weather utility will still find the Golf R a more agreeable option.
Chase Bierenkoven is a contributor at Edmunds and is on Twitter