First Drive: Mini John Cooper Works


This new speedy hatch requires very little introduction. It's the second generation John Cooper Works (JCW) version of the Mini hatchback and, producing 231bhp, is the fastest production Mini yet.

What is it?

Mini aims to recapture the hearts of drivers in the performance market with a JCW version of its latest three-door hatchback. The JCW is based on the foundations of the Cooper S, only it's powered by a much more muscular engine and, weighing just 1,205kg, is capable of hitting 62mph in just 6.1 seconds in automatic form. The new performance Mini benefits from uprated brakes, tweaked suspension, an updated engine and a top exhaust note too, giving it the edge over the Cooper S.

What's under the bonnet?

The new sporty hatch is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine and boasts a 10 per cent increase in power at 231bhp and 23 per cent more pulling power, making the new JCW significantly more punchy than its predecessor. The front wheels are driven through a choice of two six-speed gearboxes. Mated to the manual gearbox, the JCW can sprint from 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds, but go for the optional Steptronic automatic with launch control and this figure gets knocked down to just 6.1 seconds. Both will go on to reach the same top speed of 153mph.

Mini also claims the new model benefits from better in-gear acceleration, with the extra pulling power allowing it to hit 50-75mph in 5.6 seconds in fifth gear - that's faster than a Porsche 911 Carrera S. The JCW also features additional air inlets in the front bumper to help cool off the mighty 2.0-litre unit.

What's the spec like?

The Mini JCW is available with a range of bespoke equipment, and can be clearly distinguished from the Cooper S by its extensive badging and styling tweaks. If you don't see it first, the JCW can also be identified by its race car soundtrack, delivered by the sports exhaust system. It's crammed with tech, both under the bonnet and in the metal, featuring a limited-slip differential for added traction, upgraded suspension with optional active dampers and race-tuned Brembo brakes, which are visible behind unique 17-inch alloy wheels, or optional 18-inch versions.

Mini John Cooper Works

Mini John Cooper Works

The JCW is also packed with a selection of other gadgets as standard including LED daytime running headlights, air conditioning, heated mirrors and windscreen washer jets, a digital radio, Bluetooth and cruise control with automatic braking on downhill gradients.

It also comes equipped with a number of driver aids including stability control and Torque Steer Compensation, which stops the car from tugging at the wheel under hard acceleration. The stability control system can be fully disabled for track days too and incorporates Performance Control, which reduced body roll in the corners.

Any Rivals?

Competition is tough in the hot hatch segment, though the JCW is far more charming and fun to drive than the likes of Audi's S1, and it's more than £3,000 cheaper too with prices starting at £23,050. But once you begin adding up those optional extras, you could soon be an additional £5,000, or more, out of pocket. The Mini also competes against the new Vauxhall Corsa VXR and Peugeot's 208 GTI 30th Edition.

What's it like to drive?

As soon as you step behind the wheel and set off, the JCW immediately feels quicker and more responsive than its predecessor while being surprisingly comfortable, mostly due to the active shock absorbers, which will set you back £240. The engine feels happy through the rev range and the automatic gearbox swiftly changes up through the gears.

Although it can be a little too keen to shift down when you squeeze the accelerator pedal in standard 'D' mode, the sporty burble from tailpipes makes this forgivable. The JCW is hardwired with the same 'go-kart- handling DNA as the rest of the Mini family and its limited-slip differential further enhances its ability to get its power down through corners. The additional pulling power is definitely a welcome update, enabling rapid getaways from a standstill, but also sharpening throttle responses in higher gears to ensure speedy overtakes.

The AOL Cars Verdict

With a starting price of more than £23,000 the Mini JCW isn't the cheapest hot hatch on the market and it's not the quickest either. It's even £4,000 more expensive than its less powerful sibling - the Cooper S. Having said that, Mini has managed to raise the bar once again in terms of driver excitement over what was already one of the most fun hot hatches in the segment. We'd recommend you leave it in Sport mode for full effect.

The Knowledge

Model: Mini John Cooper Works Steptronic
Price: £24,380
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, twin-turbo
Power: 231bhp, 320Nm
Max Speed: 153mph
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
MPG: 49.6mpg
Emissions: 133g/km CO2

Author: Sophie Williamson-Stothert