With the new range from the British-based maker well and truly out, BMW-owned Mini has brought out the last-but-one of its big guns – the JCW.
Based on the current Mini hatch – more commonly seen with a three-cylinder – the 2.0-litre turbo kicks off at $47,400 for the six-speed manual.
With this sobering figure, you’ll be buying plenty of good stuff; body kit, 18-inch JCW wheels, dynamic dampers, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, remote central locking, auto wipers and headlights, trick interior lighting, air-conditioning, 12-speaker Harmon Kardon with 20gb hard drive, USB and Bluetooth, heads-up display, sports front seats and sat-nav with 3D maps.
Our test car was fitted with leather trim ($2000), six-speed auto with paddle shifts ($2550), black bonnet stripes ($200) and some interior bits and pieces ($450) as well as no-cost option red mirror caps, bringing the total to $53,800. Which isn’t messing about, we think you’ll agree.
The great thing about the Mini is that it seems you can put all sorts of body kits, wheels and stripes and chequer boards and whatever else you like and largely get away with it.
The JCW certainly ups the aggro with a bodykit that includes a big spoiler affixed to a body that has grown subtly over the previous car.
The cabin is certainly very tall, with that unusual view forward through the shallow upright screen. The side windows in the front are certainly very tall and let in a lot of light, only slightly less so in the back.
It is very tight across the car for both front and rear passengers and the back seats are for people you really don’t like. Or small kids belonging to people you don’t really like. The designers have dug as much out of the front seatbacks to liberate some kneeroom but with limited success.
In the JCW there’s probably a little too much of the chequerboard motif, particularly around the central dial which looks a little like it has been attacked by a teenager with liquid paper.
The Mini’s four-star safety rating comes courtesy of six airbags, ABS with corner braking control and brake force distribution, stability and traction control and crash sensor.
An eight-inch screen is fitted in the middle of the giant central circle in the middle of the dashpad. Anyone who has driven a BMW will immediately recognise the iDrive-based interface, with funky yoof graphics and a lot more colour and swirling to liven things up.
Controlling the system is via a console-based rotary dial controller and is definitely the best in the business, especially with the scratchpad for doodling out letters and numbers. Graphics are crisp and clear and the menus logical and sensible.
The 12-speaker stereo is a belter, although one occasionally wonders how so many speakers were crammed into the cabin.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
For the third Mini JCW, engine displacement is up to 2.0 litres with BMW’s twin-scroll turbo adding plenty of extra boost. The engine pumps out an impressive 170kW and 320Nm of torque, pushing the 1220 kg Mini to 100 km/h in 6.3 seconds.
Fuel consumption is a claimed 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle but given how the car encourages you to drive, that’s not going to happen very often. We managed to dip under 10L/100km, not bad given the thrashing meted out.
Brilliant. All Minis are terrific fun, even the chunkier models like Clubman, but the extra boost and dynamic dampers of the JCW turn the Mini into a proper firecracker. As with the Cooper S, there’s several driving modes, but the one you’ll always want to pick is Sport +, for “maximum go-kart feel.”
The JCW is so much fun to hustle in just about any situation, turning mild-mannered middle-aged men into seventeen year-old hoons in the blink of an eye. You don’t have to be going fast in the JCW to appreciate it either, it responds both to being manhandled as well as being conducted quickly and smoothly, a rare feat.
An even rarer feat is making a car with such a short wheelbase ride well and, well, Mini didn’t quite make it. It is, however, perfectly acceptable for most passengers but there is a pronounced, trademark Mini bounce on all but the smoothest surfaces, even with the dampers in their softest mode.
The engine feels and sounds incredibly strong and with that lightish kerb weight, makes easy work of any situation. The six-speed auto is nearly as good as the eight-speed found in other BMW cars, with a terrifically well-tuned set of shift programs. One can’t help thinking that the soon-to-arrive manual will be a hoot.
SUMMING UP 4.5/5
You can get away with never switching into Sport + and still have plenty of laughs. That’s one of the great things about this JCW. Some owners could even leave it in Eco Pro and not notice, it’s that good.
The JCW is a tremendous addition to the Mini family but many will be put off by the price – over $50,000 on the road for a three-door hatch with a tiny boot is a bit of a stretch.
It might be more expensive than a Golf GTi and is getting on towards Audi S3, but it will show both a clean pair of heels for overall driver fun and involvement. Forgetting size, only the Focus ST is as lively as the JCW but it’s always raucous, whereas the Mini can quieten down and be normal.
The JCW has a whopper of a price tag but it’s also more fun than just about anything on the road and there are plenty out there who will agree. Except for the super-hardcore who will wait for the even more bananas JCW GP edition….
LIKES: Terrific chassis, strong engine, fun interior
DISLIKES: Little too much chequerboard inside, tight rear and boot space, price.
AT A GLANCE
Mini John Cooper Works 2.0-litre turbo-petrol three-door hatch: $47,400 (manual), $49,950 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mini dealer for driveaway prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Mini John Cooper Works 2.0-litre turbo-petrol three-door hatch)
Capacity: 1.998 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 170 kW @ 5200 rpm
Maximum Torque: 320 Nm @ 1250 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 95RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.8 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 156 g/km
Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 3874 mm
Wheelbase: 2495 mm
Width: 1727 mm
Height: 1414 mm
Turning Circle: 10.8 metres
Kerb Mass: 1180 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: Not provided
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc
Three years / 100,000 km