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

Dan Prosser
18 Apr 2017
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 Mini JCW starts at £23,790. That’s £4235 more than the base price for a Cooper S but a substantial £8210 less than the price of the limited-run Mini JCW Challenge.

Although the JCW is available in both automatic and manual guises, Mini expect around 80 per cent of UK buyers to go for a stick. If you prefer a paddleshift setup, prices start at £25,160. The drop-top JCW is more expensive, still; it starts at £27,830 with the automatic version costing a further £1080.

The Mini JCW takes on some seriously impressive small hot hatches – the Ford Fiesta ST and Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport are two of the very best. Both the ST and the GTi offer a sharper, more intuitive driving experience, but it has to be said that neither gets close to the Mini for cabin quality and badge appeal.

Audi’s S1 matches the Mini for those less tangible qualities but it, too, is slightly more engaging than the JCW on a quick run. Although the Audi produces the same power as the Mini (228bhp), its quattro four-wheel drive means it feels like a totally different sort of car – far more grown-up. Don’t, for a minute, think the S1 is dull though, its short wheelbase makes it an entertaining steer, but at £25,940 it is right at the top end of the supermini market.

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

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