The latest Mini John Cooper Works is the most powerful production Mini there has ever been.
Power comes from a 2.0-litre turbo engine sending 228bhp and 236lb/ft of torque to the front wheels. It’s a fine motor, smooth and rarely found wanting for power. Sounds nicely parpy, too.
But the car I drove was equipped with the optional six-speed automatic gearbox. In isolation it’s very good, shifting seamlessly and responding quickly to the steering wheel-mounted paddles. It’s a couple of tenths quicker to 62mph (6.1 seconds plays 6.3) and a lot more economical, as well. In the JCW, though, you really do miss the interaction with clutch and gearstick. And it saps some of the character out of the drivetrain.
Otherwise, the Mini JCW really can hold its own among the hot hatch crowd. The handling is precise, the ride is firm but forgiving (the old JCW was ludicrously stiff), it’s comfortable and I love the interior.
It’s very grown up, though. Don’t get me wrong, it laps up being flung around with abandon. But it’s not lairy. You want it to feel like it’s bursting with enthusiasm, and it just doesn’t. By contrast, the Audi S1 – which isn’t as sharp to drive – feels like a spaniel straining at the lead, desperate to just go nuts.
The Mini JCW isn’t quite my cup of tea. But if it’s huge charm appeals to you, rest assured it’s one of the best hot hatchbacks out there.
Mini John Cooper Works
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol
Transmission: 6-speed automatic (6-spd manual standard); front-wheel-drive
Power/Torque: 228bhp; 236lb/ft
Economy/Emissions: 49.6mpg; 133g/km
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Top speed: 153mph
By Only Motors