As a die-hard car nut raised on a diet of Top Gear and Gran Turismo, when it came to purchasing my first car, I was set on something reasonably quick, engaging to drive and most importantly, having a manual gearbox.
After more late nights trawling through internet classifieds than I’d like to disclose, I found this 2005 Integra Type S in Milano Red, which (as luck would have it) was located in the same suburb as me! It was also the cheapest Type S in NSW, so it was just within the upper reaches of my Uni student budget.
For a 2005 model, the Type S was pretty well-equipped. In line with performance Honda tradition, a six-speed manual transmission was the only option for shifting cogs.
Leather seats, a sunroof, rear parking sensors and a 6-stacker CD player came as standard. I quickly upgraded the stereo to one with a reversing camera, as the rear visibility is almost non-existent when backing up.
Three and a half years later and the Type S continues to put a big smile on my face with the way it drives. It’ll do 0-100km/h in 6.5 seconds, which was considered reasonably fast in 2005, and still feels quick enough today. This sensation is made all the more exhilarating when VTEC kicks in at 6000rpm. The change in cam profile is very noticeable, and like most N/A Hondas, you really have to work the engine to unlock this performance. It’s tremendously addictive.
The real jewel in the Type S’s crown is the way it attacks corners. This is a hard riding car, make no mistake, and the stock suspension will make sure your spine picks up everything from potholes, to speedbumps, much more than an average small hatchback. The upshot of this is an engaging feel which rewards keen drivers on a good b-road blast. Even without the limited slip diff of the Type R, the Type S gives a lot of confidence in its levels of grip when combined with ContiSport MC5 tyres.
For the most part, the gearbox has a really solid feel to it. There’s a great sense of satisfaction that comes from rowing the gears when you’re out of the city. A well-known fault of the Type S’s 6-speed transmission is the shift from 2nd to 3rd gear often crunching, and my car is no exception. Forums will point to various fixes like changing the transmission fluid, but I’ve found putting effort into the shifts (i.e. driving it properly) is the best remedy.
As my Type S nudges closer to the 200,000km mark, I’ve been nothing short of impressed by its reliability. It’s never left me stranded. Apart from the usual wear and tear, the only major work I’ve done is replacing the worn engine mounts to the more track-focused HardRace units. After growing tired of the front headlights becoming cloudy, I ordered a new set of Mars Performance Halo lights which dramatically improved the aesthetics of the car.
I’ve attempted to install various performance parts with not much luck. My mechanic informs me that Honda had a habit of changing parts every two or so years, so even if a part was ‘DC5 compatible’, there’s no guarantee it’ll fit or not require heaps of other supporting parts.
A design flaw of the DC5 generation of Integras is that the tail-light gaskets leaking water into the boot. I discovered this when my spare tyre well became more like a swimming pool after a particularly brutal storm. New gaskets and rust-proofing was promptly undertaken.
My main gripe with my Type S is how poorly the red paint has lasted. Honda calls the shade ‘Milano Red’, but these days it looks like ‘Milano Pink’ from fading in the sun. Unfortunately I’ve also seen the same results with Jazz’s and Accord Euro’s, so my advice is to stay away from this colour if you’re looking to buy a Honda.
You might not think of a coupe as a very practical car, but the packaging of the DC5 (FWD, front engine) means the boot is surprisingly large, especially with the rear seats folded down. I’ve fitted everything from the non-folding deck chairs my mum impulse-bought on Facebook marketplace to two full-size cellos. On one occasion I was even able to give three mates a lift, and fit their luggage in the boot.
I sometimes wonder what the Integra would be like if it was still made today. It would probably have a bit more power, a lot more tech, and a heavier kerb weight as a result. But, if the current FK8 Civic Type R is anything to go by, it shows Honda can still make a hardcore sports car which can appeal to the inner child within all of us.
Simply put, I can’t imagine a better first car for the money.
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