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Mini John Cooper Works review: lots of power – still missing something

Dan Prosser
1 Feb 2018
Verdict:

The JCW is bigger and more sophisticated than ever, but some of the playfulness we expect from a hot hatch Mini has disappeared

Evo Rating: 
Price: 
£23,790
For 
Performance, limited run JCW Challenge is blistering
Against 
Ford Fiesta ST is still more fun
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Page 1 of 6Mini John Cooper Works review: lots of power – still missing something

With 228bhp, the Mini John Cooper Works is up there with the most powerful production cars the brand has ever made. The entire JCW range, Clubman and Countryman included, is now even more potent than the track-ready GP. So, on paper at least, the new hatch promises plenty of excitement.

> Read our review of the Mini Clubman JCW

The JCW’s power is a significant step above that of the 189bhp Cooper S while the latest Mini’s more luxurious interior really helps justify the car’s £23,050 base price. However, it’s entirely possible to surpass £30,000 by ticking a few options. That puts the car in line with far more potent hyper-hatch competition, such as the Volkswagen Golf R.

Previous generations of Mini have always been energetic, agile and adjustable. The latest model, including the JCW, feels bigger and more ponderous than ever but despite this, there is still some fun to be had.

One of the JCW’s biggest problems is its lack of performance tyres. The standard Pirelli Cinturato P7 tyres add a vagueness to the way the JCW drives and struggle to cope with its generous power output.

> Read our review of the Mini John Cooper Works Challenge

The JCW Challenge, that evo had a part in developing, uses much more aggressive road tyres to complement some racier suspension and an LSD. The alterations made to the Challenge transform the John Cooper Works into a very serious and very fun performance car.

At the other end of the JCW spectrum to the Challenge is the Convertible; it’s heavy, rattley and the flex in the chassis seriously reduces the car’s adjustability. However, it is like the JCW Challenge in one aspect, they’re both very expensive.

Mini John Cooper Works in detail

Performance and 0-62 time > Performance figures place the JCW at the sharp end of the hot-hatch market. Real world tests confirm it's suitably rapid.

Engine and gearbox > With a 2-litre four-cylinder engine, the JCW feels fast in any gear. The auto ‘box might be faster, but the manual suits the car far better.

Ride and handling > Stiff suspension enables composed body control and adjustability of adaptive damping broadens car's usability. At its best on performance orientated tyres rather than the standard squealing Pirelli Cinturatos.

Interior and tech > Some might not like the busy dash, but the interior’s overall finish is undeniably good. A better cabin to live with than the twee looks suggest.

Design > The new Mini's bulbous proportions are substantially improved with the fitment of the JCW’s 18-inch wheels and more aggressive bumpers.

Prices, specs and rivals

The JCW tops the mainstream Mini Cooper range by some margin, priced at £24,500. It’s about £4000 more than a Mini Cooper and that is reflected in the generous equipment levels. Cruise control, LED headlights, variable driving modes and the unique JCW bodykit are all standard. However, there are a few extras to consider to make the JCW even easier to live with day-to-day, such as all round parking sensors priced at £600.

You can have an automatic transmission, but that boosts the price to £26k, and there’s also a convertible body style available from £28k. You’ll only find one performance upgrade on the options list, variable damper control – which works in conjunction with the car’s standard variable driving modes.

In terms of size, performance and price, the Audi S1 is the JCW’s closest rival at £27k and a fierce one at that. Its 2-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine develops 228bhp – the same as the Mini – but churns out an impressive 273lb ft of torque. With the aid of its quattro four-wheel drive system, the S1 can sprint from 0 to 62mph in 5.8sec and reach a limited top speed of 155mph.  

While the lusty engine feels every bit as peppy as the figures suggest, it doesn't dominate the driving experience thanks to the S1’s broad spread of talents. On any surface in any conditions, the buttoned-down body control and four-wheel drive system lend you the confidence to extract all the performance. Impressive as the Audi’s pace is though, the chassis lacks the adjustability and involvement of our favourite hot hatches such as the Peugeot 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport.

 

Page 1 of 6Mini John Cooper Works review: lots of power – still missing something

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