"With 208bhp the John Cooper Works is the fastest production MINI yet, offering cracking performance in a desirable hot hatchback package"
The MINI JCW is designed to be the most performance-focused production MINI you can buy, with a limited edition GP model taking things even further still. It faces competition from the Renault Clio Renaultsport and Vauxhall Corsa VXR. With an exhaust sound that crackles at idle like the 1959 original, ‘go-kart’ handling is matched to an engine that offers astonishing straight-line acceleration. An extensive options list means it's easy to personalise, with high-quality materials featured throughout. Excellent resale values and an economical engine means that this performance MINI is a sensible, if expensive choice. Sharing many parts with the MINI Challenge one-make racers, the JCW provides cracking entertainment in a desirable hot hatchback package.
Sitting low, close to the road and behind a small steering wheel, the MINI JCW is seriously fast; feeling and sounding like a racing car thanks to its 208bhp 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The JCW offers plenty of grip and traction, while the engine's impressive output creates some mild torque steer. Quick, accurate steering makes the MINI great fun around corners, though, while upgraded Brembo brakes provide great stopping power.
With its race-inspired chassis, the MINI JCW is pretty uncomfortable, crashing and banging over large potholes. Large 17-inch alloys also make the ride a little worse, too. There's lots of front headroom, the front seats slide back far enough for even the tallest driver, offering plenty of adjustment in the steering wheel. The massive central speedometer is clear to read, while also offering a digital readout on the rev counter. Some of the toggle switches are difficult to read, however, being mounted low on the central column.
The MINI has a five-star Euro NCAP rating, meaning lots of airbags and electronic stability control as standard. The Oxford built car isn’t without faults, but the strong dealer network offers excellent customer care. Expensive to replace run-flat tyres are a common customer complaint however, while some lower interior plastics wear badly.
Space has never been one of the MINI's strong points. The rear seats offer limited legroom, and the boot is filled to capacity with just four carrier bags of shopping. The car comes with split-folding rear seats, allowing the 160-litre boot to expand to 680 litres, but compared to the 285-to-980-litre range of the Citroen DS3, the MINI's not a practical choice. The interior also puts style first, with limited door bins and storage space.
Value for money
On the surface the JCW starts at £22,330- but once it's customised with options this price easily passes £25,000. For a performance model, standard kit is disappointing, with just a unique bodykit offering visual clues to the performance. Inside the upgrades are also minimal, with proper buckets being a pricey option. The MINI counters this with great resale values thanks to a highly desirable image.
Thanks to a programme of fuel-saving measures called MINImalism, the performance hatchback is relatively economical, offering a combined fuel economy of 42.8mpg. Road tax for a year is also low at £165, and MINI offers the ‘tlc’ package, which, for just £200, provides five years of servicing.