Mini John Cooper Works (2015-present)

The Mini John Cooper Works (JCW) is a fun-to-drive performance version of the hatchback.

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths 

Very entertaining to drive
Reasonable economy for a hot hatchback
Fast

Weaknesses 

Ride can feel very firm
Expensive - even before adding options
Cheaper Cooper S is nearly as fast

The Mini John Cooper Works (JCW) Hatchback is a faster version of the Mini Cooper S hatchback, with a series of upgrades that make it the quickest Mini production car ever.

It’s powered by the same 2-litre turbocharged engine, but it has been tuned to increase power from 192 horsepower (hp) to 231hp, which turns the fun Cooper S into a thrillingly quick hatchback that surges forwards with a nudge of the accelerator, with an exhaust that pops and crackles when you lift off your right foot.

You'll have to put up with firm suspension that means you feel every jolt as it crashes into potholes, but this does make the Mini more level in corners, so that it doesn't lean noticeably, and change direction in an instant. Combined with the Mini’s responsive steering, it’s a machine designed to make you grin, even when you’re sticking to the speed limit. It might not be as much fun to drive as the lively and nimbler Ford Fiesta ST or Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport - and it's more expensive than both of those cars - but neither of them have the sophistication of the Mini.

The car's shape and interior are little different to the rest of the Mini Hatchback range, but they have been tweaked to give it the sporty air of a car that costs from just under £24,000.    

On the outside, it has a unique bodykit with John Cooper Works badges dotted around the car, a larger spoiler and alloy wheels made just for this model. Inside, there are leather and Alcantara suede-effect sports seats as well as the usual quirky style of every Mini, including a big circle in the centre of the dashboard, containign a display and controls, plus toggle switches, which bring the same retro character and charm possessed by the rest of the range.

What's lacking - unless you pay more - is sat-nav, climate control and even floor mats. The standard two-tone dashboard display is particularly miserable, and would be disappointing even in a Kia Picanto.

The JCW also comes with the same flaws as the Mini three-door Hatchback (you can't get a JCW version of the Mini five-door Hatchback). The main shortcomings are its cramped interior for rear seat passengers and a dinky boot. These might not be important considerations for someone looking for a hot hatchback, but it’s worth knowing that you’ll struggle if you do carry more than two passengers and much more than a couple of small suitcases regularly.

The Fiesta and Peugeot 208 aren't exactly people-carriers either, but you can get a larger Ford Focus ST with more standard equipment for just £1,500 more as a new car. If you're comparing used cars of the same age, the Focus ST is often cheaper. In contrast, the Mini looks good value when compared to German rivals. The Audi S1 starts at more than £27,000 before any discounts.

However, running costs shouldn’t be too steep. The manual-gearbox JCW returns around 37mpg in real-world driving, which isn't too far away from the official figure of 42mpg. It's a different story with the automatic version, which has an official 49mpg figure. In normal driving, it's only as efficient as the manual.

The automatic Mini JCW is the quickest version but the car best suits the manual gearbox because it makes you feel far more involved with driving

The Mini JCW is a safe car, too. It received four stars from Euro NCAP, comes with a full suite of airbags, plus Mini provides an extensive options list that you can dip into if you want to add any extra safety systems.

Last Updated 

Friday, June 2, 2017 - 16:30

Key facts 

Warranty: 
Three years / unlimited miles
Boot size: 
211 litres
Width: 
1727mm
Length: 
3874mm
Height: 
1414mm
Tax: 
£200 in first year, £140 thereafter / Pre-April 2017 cars: £180

Best Mini Hatchback for... 

Mini JCW with Chili Pack
The Mini JCW isn’t a car that many families will consider, as the rear seats are cramped, the boot is small and the three-door bodystyle isn’t particularly practical, but there are ISOFIX points in the rear. Go for the cheaper manual option and use the money saved to add a couple of optional extras such as parking sensors. If you need more space, there are JCW versions of the larger Countryman and Paceman SUVs.
Mini JCW Auto
The automatic gearbox in the Mini JCW has better performance figures than the manual. It’ll go from 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds (0.2 seconds faster than the manual) and onto a top speed of 153mph.

Mini Hatchback History 

  • April 2015 The Mini Cooper JCW goes on sale in Britain.

Understanding Mini Hatchback car names 

  • Hatchback
  • Engine
    2.0
  • Gearbox
    Auto
  • Engine
    The engine size of the Mini JCW is shown in litres
  • Gearbox
    Automatic versions of the Mini JCW are clearly labelled Auto.

Mini Hatchback Engines 

Petrol: 2.0 Turbocharged

The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine is the same one that powers the Cooper S on which the JCW is based, but it’s been tuned for even better performance. Power was boosted from 198bhp to 228bhp, which is the same as the Audi S1 - one of the Mini JCW’s closest rivals.

It’s an engine used in BMWs (the German firm owns Mini), but when fitted to the Mini, it feels very quick - it’ll go from 0-62mph in just 6.1 seconds when fitted with the six-speed automatic gearbox and onto 153mph. It’s very enjoyable trying to make the most of the car’s power, too. It’s fitted with a sports exhaust which sounds great - it makes crackling and popping noises which adds to the drama of driving a fun little hot hatchback like the JCW.

Fuel economy

Power

0 - 62mph

Top speed

2.0

42-49mpg

231hp

6.1-6.3 secs

153mph

Mini Hatchback Trims 

John Cooper Works

The Mini JCW is a trim level in itself, so there’s no confusion about what you get for your money. As standard, you get LED daytime running lights and bright LED headlights, a sporty bodykit and large 18-inch JCW alloy wheels. Inside, there are Alcantara suede-effect sports seats, digital radio, Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity, air-conditioning and cruise control.

The equipment list feels miserly for a £24,000 car, though, and there are some notable omissions that you need to pay more for - particularly the tiny standard dashboard display that isn't even in colour.

You can spend an awful lot of money on Mini’s extensive options list, which can easily take its price above £30,000, but the £240 variable damper control is worth considering. This gives you the option of selecting a more comfortable suspension setting, which makes the ride less bumpy, but not as smooth as the standard Mini.

Most buyers go for the £2,100 Chili Pack, which adds floor mats, dual-zone climate control, part-leather seats, as well as windscreen wipers and headlights that automatically swich on when needed. All of which should arguably have been included in the standard price.

Sat-nav is a £595 option, plus an extra £300 for a 6.5in colour dashboard screen, but also comes with the Media Pack XL, costing £1,400, which includes a larger 8.8in colour screen, as well as enhanced Bluetooth for clearer hands-free calls.

The Media Pack XL is also included with the Tech Pack. This also adds a 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, rear camera and head-up display. There are plenty of ways to personalise your Mini too, from different dashboard panel materials to bonnet stripes.

Mini Hatchback Reliability and warranty 

The Mini may look unique from everything else on the road, but it uses parts and technology found in many BMW cars, which - in theory - should stand it in good stead when it comes to reality.

The good news is that breakdowns are uncommon. But that doesn't meant that owners are happy about the car. In fact, it was ranked 147 out of 50 for reliability in the 2016 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. That's mainly down to the number of complaints about rattles in the car.

Minis come with 3-year, unlimited mileage warranties, so if you’re a high-mileage driver, you’ll be covered should anything go wrong. You can also opt for Mini’s TLC service pack, which includes 5-years’/50,000 miles’ worth of servicing for an up-front fee of £399 if you buy it brand new.

Used Mini Hatchback 

The Mini JCW went on sale some time after the rest of the Hatchback range, so the earliest models of the current generation date from 2015. The cars hold their value well, so you'll pay around £17,000 for the cheapest, which tend to lack any optional extras.

Cars equipped with the Chili Pack tend to cost closer to £20,000, partly because their first owners often failed to resist the temptation of the options list and paid for other extras on top of them.

Although this brings the price closer to that of a standard new model, you'll actually be saving several thousand pounds on the price of a new car that's fitted with the same level of equipment.

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