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2018 CarWale Track Day: Mini Cooper S JCW vs Skoda Octavia RS

Introduction

Mini Cooper S JCW vs Skoda Octavia RS

What we have here are two FWD cars producing more than 200bhp of power and have a top speed of over 200kmph. Of course, their body styles are different, but still what they have in common is delivering an invigorating performance to car enthusiasts. This is still not an apples to apples comparison; more like apples and oranges really. But essentially, they are both fruit. The biology lesson ends there, we promise. As automobiles (not fruit) brought to this year's CarWale Track Day 2018, we were expecting the two to give us a fun experience with all the indulgence of performance vehicles.

What makes them special?

The Cooper S JCW (John Cooper Works) represents the best of what Mini has to offer - fancy exterior, extravagant interior and a loud exhaust note that´s delightfully impressive. However, it’s the direct steering, compact size and go-kart like feel that will make it fun to throw it around. I was longing to drive it on the track.

Mini Cooper S JCW vs Skoda Octavia RS

Then there’s the Octavia RS. The past two-generations of the Octavia impressed us with its performance and the new one has left us spell-bound. Apart from the sporty enhancements and the braap note, there’s more under the skin. Furthermore, its sub Rs 30 lakhs price makes it the only true-blue performance sedan in this price segment.

Mini Cooper S JCW vs Skoda Octavia RS

What I think they can do?

Mini Cooper S JCW vs Skoda Octavia RS

The torquey nature of the Octavia’s 2.0-litre four cylinder mill and its seamless power peaking at 227bhp and 350Nm of torque is just one positive aspect of this full-blown performer. The butter smooth DSG, lowered ride height and better stability should make it an absolute pleasure driving it around the track. Only the extra weight might be a disadvantage slowing it down around corners. On the other hand, the lighter Mini should have an advantage considering its slightly higher power-to- weight ratio (165bhp per tonne as against the Skoda’s 160). It should carry greater corner exit speeds and with a precise steering and spot on handling, the JCW Pro should be extremely engaging to drive and exhibit fairly predictable manners at high speeds.

Mini Cooper S JCW vs Skoda Octavia RS

The track test

Mini Cooper S JCW vs Skoda Octavia RS

The outlandish looks of the Mini speak volumes about the car’s performance intentions. Needless to say, I went out in it first. I set out on the race track after toggling through the menu and setting it up in Sport mode. The screen flashed 'maximum go-kart feel mode' and with the press of the pedal, the fantastic acceleration surge got the car going. The driving position is spot-on like a go-kart. It's deep enough into the car to make you feel like you’re right in there with it. In the C2 & C3 corners, the Mini feels well balanced and very much tied down. As a result, corner entries become very addictive with the short, sharp downshifts and good braking at C4 & C8. With each pull of the left-hand paddle, the crackle and pop fireworks keep you entertained. For a turbo motor, the Mini’s 208bhp 2.0-litre mill is astonishingly responsive. Especially with loads of torque available even below 1,500rpm. This combined with a low riding stance makes the turn-ins feel sharp, and even if steering is heavy, it is quick. Post C7 and C12, the overall balance at higher speeds too is impressive with a flat ride.

Mini Cooper S JCW vs Skoda Octavia RS

Then, moving into the spacious and comfortable cabin of the RS, the engine here is certainly quieter than the Mini. The throaty thrum is audible only when you rev it hard. And that's what I did, only to account for some wheel spin with loads of torque coming in and the ESC off. There's generous amount of tyre squeal at the C1 right-hander and even in the tighter C5 and C7 sections. The 227bhp engine is quite a gem, but with so much power the RS understeers a lot. Thankfully, due to a lowered ride height as against standard Octavia, the RS feels much more composed when you flick it from one corner to another like the C10 and C11. Still it feels a lot heavier and is not as nimble as the Mini. And despite my inclination towards three-pedal cars, the DSG automatic gearbox in the RS satiated me. It provides a quick-shifting punch that should please even the most ardent enthusiast. On the longer straights, I noticed the 6,500rpm upshifts were crisp and if perfectly timed keep the boost on the boil.

Mini Cooper S JCW vs Skoda Octavia RS

Even though I'd thought the Mini will beat the RS on the track with relative ease, the JCW Pro did not. Our test driver, Rayomand Banajee, reported the lack of launch adhesion on both cars, but he clocked the 3.7km circuit in the Mini in 2.08.88 seconds flat and consistently on both runs. The Octavia also managed the same time on the first run, but did the second run in 2.07.60 seconds. While that's only a tad faster but astonishing and impressive nonetheless. Especially when it was least expected. Our race driver said that since the Mini went flat around the tight track against the RS that rolled more, it could have an advantage. However, the Octi's most impressive feats were hustling to a better speeds at C1 and C10 and beating the Cooper.

Mini Cooper S JCW vs Skoda Octavia RS

Last words

Between the two, the two-door Mini feels slightly sharper than the RS. Certainly, it can carry more speed though a corner with less lean, thanks to almost 200kg weight advantage over the four-door sedan. That said, the big surprise comes in with the RS delivering a quicker lap time despite the added bulk but more power. Such close lap times also mean the cars are on-par with each other and can provide razor-edged reflexes and a wealth of more such traits on the occasional track day. I thoroughly enjoyed the track laps in both, but I feel it’s the Mini that manages to instil the racing spirit in the driver better than the RS. So, even if the Octavia plastered a grin on my face, it’s the JCW Pro which left a wider grin.

Mini Cooper S JCW vs Skoda Octavia RS

Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi

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Skoda Octavia Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Mumbai₹ 18.91 Lakhs onwards
Kolkata₹ 17.77 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 19.4 Lakhs onwards
New Delhi₹ 18.72 Lakhs onwards
Hyderabad₹ 19.26 Lakhs onwards
Bangalore₹ 20.02 Lakhs onwards
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