A dominant player in the sport compact market, the long-lived Acura Integra was replaced with the more powerful, more polished RSX in the summer of 2001. Modern looks, stronger powertrain, and better dressed interior reached out to a more mature, though decidedly youthful, audience. After three model years, the Acura RSX has been treated to a thorough freshening for 2005, adding new appeal to the hatchback sportster.
The already sharp appearance was made more dramatic for ’05 with new front and rear fascias, complemented by new headlamps and taillights. A new grille contributes to the fresh face, while side sills visually lower the car. The net effect is the appearance of a modified car right from the factory, complete with five-split-spoke wheels and larger exhaust tip.
Inside, the RSX maintains a distinct personality, with a pod-like dash structure. By extending the main dash forward, it creates a true cockpit feel. As common on Acura products, the controls are logically designed and ergonomically placed, with all switchgear mounted at steering wheel height for easy access and viewing while driving.
Supporting the RSX’s near-luxury pretensions, the uplevel Type-S cabin features standard amenities such as power windows/locks/mirrors, automatic climate control, Bose AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo with a subwoofer, moonroof, and leather upholstery.
Upgrades for ’05 give the interior an even more premium feel, with white gauge faces replacing metallic ones, and the addition of both chrome and titanium trim accents.
The updated front bucket seats are dramatically shaped like the finest race seats, with large thigh, torso, and shoulder bolsters. The soft, slippery leather is perforated to help breathing and the seats are finished with a titanium garnish. These manually adjustable buckets may be too firm for some drivers, or too restrictive for others.
The rear two seats provide tight accommodations for adult-sized passengers, made even less comfortable by the sloping roofline and hatch glass.
A small car, the RSX makes the best of its 16-cu-ft cargo space with split-fold rear seats tilting flat. The wide, deep load floor is easy to access and quite useful, with a 60-inch maximum cargo depth. A slight five-inch cut in the rearward cargo wall lowers the lift height required to load the rear section. The hatch itself operates with little effort.
The RSX features the basic round of safety gear, including three-channel anti-lock brakes, dual-stage front airbags, front lap belt pretensioners, and side airbags. No traction control or stability control is offered.
Choosing a more proactive course, the same hardware that gives the car its feisty personality contributes to the active safety. Relatively aggressive 11.8-inch front and 10.2-inch rear disc brakes are supported by several system updates, such as shortened brake pedal stroke and larger diameter master cylinder, to provide quick, sure-footed stopping ability.
Likewise, the steering system has been made more responsive, without compromising road feel, or feedback isolation. Combined with suspension changes, the revised mechanical bits are the basis for more entertaining street performance and improved accident avoidance capability.
The RSX line starts with a 2.0-liter/160-horse I-4 engine, with the RSX Type-S fitted with a higher-strung variant producing 210-hp, up 10 horses over ’04. The increased output occurs at a stratospheric 7800 rpm, with last year’s model peaking at 7400 rpm. Rated as a Low Emission Vehicle-II, the RSX Type-S is available with only a six-speed manual transmission.
Behind the Wheel
While the horsepower peak promises thrilling power, the meager 143 lb-ft torque peak means the engine has to be flogged deep into the revs. Just as the i-VTEC (variable camshaft) and dual-stage intake manifold technology imply, the engine has two distinct personalities. Around town, the Type-S performs like a capable compact car, delivering adequate power and returning very good fuel economy. Pushed hard, the engine comes to life in the north end of the rpm-range, creating a more raw and indeed engaging experience.
From a standstill, the RSX benefits from a mid (3500+) rpm launch for swift acceleration, though it is quick to respond in passing. A single or double-downshift brings the car immediately to life, rewarding the inner racer within all of us. The manual shifter is just average, with decent height, throw, and linkage.
The RSX is rather well insulated from noise, vibration, and harshness for its class under around-town driving conditions, but when driven harder, engine buzz intrudes on the interior serenity. Several measures were taken to reduce aural feedback in the 2005 model, but some buyers may have issue with such raw sounds in a luxury-badged vehicle.
The fully independent suspension is communicative and inviting, allowing the RSX Type-S to handle like other sport compacts wish they could. The ride leans to the firm side without being harsh, perfect for the intended market. The steering feel has more feedback and resistance than platformmate Honda Civic, and again, it is spot on for its target.
The RSX Type-S offers an enticing transition point from affordable compacts to midsize cars, giving buyers the luxury channel ownership experience, elevated refinement and feature set, stimulating performance, and good fuel economy. It effectively targets Gen Y and Gen X auto enthusiasts on the move, especially those who may be drawn to such cars by the desire to indulge in aftermarket upgrade components. The freshened Type-S already has this tuner look and feel from the factory, with more refinement than any assemblage of catalog components could accomplish.
For those who seek a fun commuter, the RSX Type-S leaves one wanting for little, with all traditional amenities represented in the driver-centric cabin. However, the Type-S mileage is tempered by the cost for the recommended premium fuel.
Less hard-charging drivers should consider the well-equipped base RSX. While power may be down 50 horses on paper, the real-world difference may not be an issue in commuting, the softer suspension may even be welcomed on some roads, and its preferred fuel is regular 87-octane gasoline.
Even within the Honda family, the RSX is flanked by enticing alternatives. On one end, the Honda Civic EX coupe has a better Cost of Ownership, including a lower transaction price and better fuel efficiency. Moving up, the Acura TSX offers a more polished package with four doors whose slightly higher asking price is offset by a more attractive Cost of Ownership rating.
Like all Acuras, even the RSX is covered by a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty and roadside assistance package.
When it’s time to graduate from a Civic, the Acura RSX Type-S rewards with power, handling, features, and quality befitting a buyer whose career is on the launch pad.
- What’s Hot More Type-S hpFreshened for 2005Premium sport compact What’s Not Engine NVHTight back seatLow-end power
The RSX line was significantly freshened for 2005, with updated f/r fascias, retuned suspension, new interior trim, refined steering, stiffened structure, and more power for Type-S.
The RSX shines with the sporty Type-S, providing a complete lux-trimmed sport compact car. True options are limited to minor dealer items. Only the base RSX is available with cloth upholstery and an automatic transmission.