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Mini Cooper S JCW Road Test

Introduction

The Mini Cooper S JCW (John Cooper Works edition) represents the absolute best of what Mini has to offer, taking advantage of the extra power and a more ostentatious design over the standard car. The JCW edition also happens to be the most powerful hatchback one can buy in India, making it jolly exciting. However, at well above Rs 40 lakhs, it’s hardly a good value. In fact, for the same price you can buy a VW GTI (a full-on hot hatch) and a Polo GT TSI (a pseudo hot hatch) and still have plenty of change to turn them into complete monsters. 

But what if you can actually justify spending extra on the Mini, a car that’s undoubtedly unique and with so much heritage to its credit? Let’s take a closer look then at what makes this British hot hatch tick.

Design and Style

What sets the Cooper S apart from pretty much every other car on the road is the way it looks. Despite its small size, it’s got massive road presence. The front-end is traditional Mini with a splash of chrome for the large hexagonal grille. We got plenty of stares while driving and that’s mainly down to the comical, bug-eyed LED headlamps which look terrific when lit. Better still, this is no regular Cooper S as you get contrasting colour option for the roof and the wing mirrors. The JCW edition also adds go-faster stripes, 17-inch gloss black wheels, headlamp surround bezel in gloss black and dual tail pipes finished in carbon fibre. 

Coming back to the design, the low-riding stance and short overhangs give the Cooper S enormous character. The aggressively designed bumpers (part of the JCW aerodynamic pack) and the flared wheel arches give this car a strong visual stance especially when viewed from behind. All in all, the lack of strong creases (along the sides) and a curvy front and rear-end result in a coherent design that is both striking and purposeful.

Interior

There is a lot to differentiate the JCW edition on the outside and it’s a similar story in here. You get body-hugging JCW Sport seats (in black and red), meaty JCW steering wheel, red dashboard trim and door armrests finished in similar shade. The rest of the cabin, meanwhile, remains unchanged and that’s not a bad thing at all because the interior nicely retains the classic Mini’s charm and yet, comes with plenty of modern and some unconventional touches. Take the infotainment screen, instance, which is fitted slap-bang in the middle of the dash, along with a pile of well finished toggle switches underneath. 

Speaking of well finished, the cabin overall is inundated with soft-touch materials, leather upholstery and high-gloss plastics to go with the premium that this car carries. Being a Mini, it’s in the details where things get interesting – there are some nice traditional touches like the toggle switches, multiple Union Jack motifs (darned across the cabin) and the multicolour LED strip that surrounds the main display. This latest-gen car also has its speedo mounted behind the steering wheel which is a lot more convenient as it’s in your eyesight, however, the digital fuel gauge isn’t very comprehensive. Certainly we would rather have an analogue unit given this car’s frequent drinking habit. 

Nevertheless, the cabin is a comfortable place to be in for the passengers up front. The leather seats are adequately wide and large and the visibility outside is decent, too, thanks to the thin A-pillars. Being a wide small car, there’s more than enough shoulder room and knee room in the foot well. As for those in the back, they will have to do with some serious space crunch because even with the front seats set unfairly forward than usual, there is hardly any legroom. Overall, the comfort level at the rear is low even for a hatchback. That said, most 3-door Mini owners don’t mind the lack of space given the car’s fizzy character. 

Safety and Equipment

The cabin not only looks the part but is also fairly loaded. The highlight comes in the form of the Mini Connected infotainment system that’s certainly the most user friendly system from the brand yet. Featuring an 8.8-inch display, it controls all of the car’s functions including media, navigation and the various driving modes. The iDrive-like controller and the way the car is shown in context when switching through driving modes makes the system really intuitive. As for the rest of the features, you get head-up display, 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, multi-function leather steering wheel, body hugging leather seats and commendable quality all-round. In terms of safety equipment, you get front, side and curtain airbags, LED headlamps, traction control, ABS and cornering braking assist.  

Funky design and equipment aside, the Cooper S JCW is all about driving fun. Time to get behind the wheel…

Engine, Performance and Braking

Powered by a 2-litre, four-cylinder motor making 208bhp/300Nm, the Cooper S JCW surely earns it’s racing stripes. You get 19bhp and 20Nm extra over the standard Cooper S, all of which can be felt on the road. The JCW edition also adds louder pipes which result in a rather throaty exhaust note that only gets better as the revs climb. And like all fast Minis, the exhaust delightfully pops and burbles on the overrun.

Featuring direct injection and BMW’s infamous VANOS variable valve timing, this engine makes most of its torque quite early and below 1,500rpm, making it remarkably responsive for a turbo motor. Jam the throttle and this car gathers pace easily and pulls particularly hard in the midrange. If anything, you can even short shift to a higher gear and make the most of that mid-range punch. When driving around town, pick up speed and you know at that point that you have only scratched the surface of this powertrain and the plea to hunt down an empty stretch of road is profound. Come across one and its fireworks.

Sure, there is no organ-crushing boost rush when you go flat out but that strong onset of torque from around 2,500rpm is captivating and before you know it, you are moving really fast. To put it in numbers, the Cooper S JCW does 0-100kmph in 6.41 seconds, going on to hit 150kmph in an equally impressive 13.70 seconds. It’s impressive in gear, too, dispatching 40-100kmph and 20-80kmph in 4.79 seconds and 3.99 seconds respectively.

Next to the Cooper S Clubman or even the standard car, the JCW edition feels more eager to scamper off and get going. Its drivetrain’s party piece comes in the form of the driving modes, namely Mid, Sport and Green. Reacting noticeably different in each mode, the car alters the throttle and steering response besides changing the shift points and ferocity of the 6-speed automatic gearbox depending on the mode. In Sport mode, everything is turned up to eleven - the throttle is at its reactive best and the gearbox also hangs onto lower gears and shifts up above 6,000rpm, near the redline. Now, as one would expect, switching to Green mode calms things down considerably – the gearshifts are noticeably smoother and the steering becomes lighter as well.

Strong. That really sums up the braking performance of the Cooper JCW. It’s got a fantastic set of brakes that deliver strong stopping power even after continuous hard driving. We recorded one of our best ever stopping times with this car. In fact, it took 2.58 seconds and just 36.35m of tarmac to bring the Cooper S JCW from 100kmph to standstill.

Ride and Handling

 

Now on to the highlight of basically every Mini that is the way it handles. The direct steering and small size make the Cooper S JCW fun to throw around. Despite the added width and increased wheelbase over the years, there is still that go kart-like feel behind the wheel which offers good feedback when the front wheels start to lose grip. Now some might find the steering a bit too heavy in the town but it really is a point and shoot affair. When you are going for it, maintaining speed in this car is easy - the turn-in is sharp and the overall balance at higher speed is impressive as the whole thing sits remarkably flat. Also, we would like to add that this new model is not as tail happy (when lifting off) as the old car owning to the longer wheel base and neutral chassis balance.  All in all, the quick steering, strong brakes and the brilliant exhaust note all add up to leave you with a wide grin.   

Having said that, what’s less likely to make you smile is the ride quality. Really it’s not fair to expect this hard-core hot hatch to soak in bumps or potholes like a typical premium car – it’s a stiffly sprung car, after all, and the ride is quite harsh over rutted roads and sharp-edged potholes to the point that its borderline uncomfortable. At higher speeds, the Cooper S remains thoroughly composed however the ride isn’t particularly refined due to excessive tyre noise but for the kind of performance on tap, it’s totally acceptable. 

Price and Fuel Economy

The Mini Cooper S JCW is a limited run model and like most limited edition cars, it carries a hefty premium. It is in fact priced at Rs 43.90 lakh (ex-showroom) which is pricey indeed. To give you an idea, the JCW edition is noticeably more expensive than even the 5-door Mini Cooper S Clubman. 

As for the fuel economy, the Cooper S JCW managed 7.44kmpl in the city and 12.86kmpl on the highway under our testing cycle, figures that are somewhat acceptable given the grin-inducing performance on offer.

Verdict

On looks and performance alone, the Mini Cooper S JCW has gallops of appeal. Never mind that it’s become fat over the years and isn’t literally ‘mini’ anymore, it’s still a head turner. It’s also hugely involving to drive and fairly predictable even if you misbehave. You have to pay for it though. The Cooper S isn’t a bargain and this JCW edition is certainly pricey. 

The Volkswagen GTI is more practical and the Fiat Abarth 595 is more stylish, however, we would fully understand anyone who’s willing to spend on the Cooper S JCW. The Mini is extremely engaging to drive and as close to everyday motoring nirvana as you are likely to get for the better side of Rs 50 lakhs. 

 
 
Pictures by Kapil Angane 
 
Click here for on-road prices for the Mini Cooper range.

Specification

CAR NAME Mini Cooper S
Variant JCW
ENGINE  
Fuel Petrol
Installation Front, transverse
Displacement 1998cc
Bore/stroke 82mm/94.6mm
Valve gear 4 valves per cyl
Power 208bhp at 5000rpm
Torque

300Nm at 1250rpm

Power to weight 165.07bhp per tonne
Torque to weight 238.09Nm per tonne
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
CHASSIS & BODY  
Kerb weight 1260kg
Tyres (F/R) 225/45 R17
Spare -
STEERING  
Type Rack and pinion
Type of assist Electric
Turning circle 11.2m
BRAKES  
Front Ventilated Discs
Rear Discs
Anti-lock Yes

Test Data

CAR NAME Mini Cooper S
Variant JCW
PERFORMANCE & BRAKING  
0-20kph 0.95s
0-40kph 2.06s
0-60kph 3.16s
0-80kph 4.61s
0-100kph 6.41s
0-120kph 8.73s
   
20-80kph in 3rd gear 3.99s
40-100kph in 5th gear 4.79s
   
100-0kph 2.58s / 36.35m
FUEL ECONOMY  
City 7.44 kmpl
Highway 12.68 kmpl
Tank size 44-litres
Range 430km
INTERIOR MEASUREMENTS  
Front  
Legroom(Max/min) 880/640mm
Headroom(Max/min) 1000/930mm
Shoulder room 1280mm
Backrest height 620mm
Rear   
Legroom(Max/min) 770/520mm
Ideal legroom 660mm
Headroom 910mm
Shoulder room 1120mm
Seat base length 470m
Backrest height 640mm
Boot  
Length/width/height 440/960/420mm
Loading lip height 640mm

Photos

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