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MINI Coupe John Cooper Works

Click to view picture galleryCosmetic, cracking — or MINI
  overkill? The new MINI
  John Cooper Works that hardly
  anyone noticed

SO WHAT'S NOT A SURPRISE? That the John Cooper Works version of MINI's new Coupe is a genuine 'pocket-rocket'. But what is surprising is that you don't need very deep pockets to put one on your drive just 23,795. However you cut it, that's not a lot of cash for a 150mph sports machine.

But therein lies the catch: because it's a MINI the showroom price is just the starting point. To be fair, my press car was specced up to highlight numerous extra-cost kit on offer to every customer purchasing a new MINI.

In fact my road test JCW Coupe was carrying almost 6K's worth of optional equipment from the must-have and very popular Chili Pack, leather upholstery, heated sports-style front seats, sports suspension, on-board computer, chrome line interior, upgraded hi-fi, JCW leather fascia, black 17-inch alloys and a Media Pack (SatNav with its screen sited in the centre of the dinner plate-sized central speedometer plus full Bluetooth preparation). Clearly the price of one of these pocket-rockets can shoot up as quickly as it can get to 62mph: from 0-6,000 in 6.4 seconds.

That said, there is something that MINI doesn't charge for: body stripes.There's no charge if you have them; and no charge if you don't!

“What the JCW Coupe does have is real pace for making fast and safe progress on twisting roads. Although firm, the sports suspension did a good job of absorbing poorer road surfaces and delivered superb balance and a flat ride through fast bends...”
My silver test JCW came with a black roof with silver stripes and black stripes on the body. Given the eye-catching looks and all the 'go-faster' dressing, I expected lots of attention from other road users and pedestrians.

Amazingly, this simply wasn't the case. Not even my car-mad neighbours, who usually call round to give my road test cars a quick 'once over', showed up.

In fact the overall reaction to it, wherever it went or was parked, was one of indifference. Perhaps, with all these additional new MINI models five to date and two more still to come we have finally reached MINI overkill?

Drop into the driver's seat and you'll be immersed in a sporty, high quality retro look and feel cabin. The sports seats are supportive and comfortable and for two people the Coupe is quite roomy. The rear contains a reasonably large and deep boot that will be appreciated by golfers. Unfortunately, as on all MINIs, the control and switchgear ergonomics remain flawed they're small, scattered around the fascia, and not that easy to use.

The cabin roof has neat, twin-sculptured domes that create a bit more headroom for taller passengers. However, the rear and rear-quarter visibility is really poor and there's no rear wiper so visibility is even worse in the rain.

Under the striped-up bonnet, a 208bhp, turbocharged, direct injection 1.6-litre petrol unit delivers impressive pace with equally impressive flexibility thanks to 192lb ft of torque from 1,850rpm. A close-ratio six-speed manual 'box is fitted; it's fast and slick to use, and matches the engine's character really well. Fast, fun driving is there whenever needed yet it remains very flexible in slower-moving traffic. Officially it will do 39.8mpg in the combined cycle; covering most types of use, my test car averaged 36.3mpg.

What the JCW Coupe does have is real pace for making fast and safe progress on twisting roads. Although firm, the sports suspension did a good job of absorbing poorer road surfaces and delivered superb balance and a flat ride through fast bends. Cornering grip is huge which, combined with very sharp steering responses, makes it a hugely rewarding car to drive.

While a top speed of 149mph looks good on paper, where it counts is at 70mph to the JCW this is no big deal and at the legal limit it feels effortless and refined. Driving along motorways the JCW Coupe is just another fast, small car; where it really comes alive is on twisting back roads and it should, of course, be a competitive trackday competitor.

For: Fashionable sports styling, high-quality retro interior styling, well equipped, sharp steering response, fast, well balanced and with huge cornering grip.

Against: Really poor rear and rear-quarter visibility, no rear wiper, options really push up the price and some styling features are more cosmetic than of any real use.

However, I suspect its strongest appeal will be to affluent customers who like to think of themselves as 'forever young' and who just want a MINI that's a bit different to make a statement. David Miles

MINI Coupe John Cooper Works | 23,795
Maximum speed: 149mph | 0-62mph: 6.4 seconds | Overall test MPG: 36.3mpg
Power: 208bhp | Torque: 192lb ft | CO2 165g/km