Cooper Works Hatchback
snap, crackle and pop
from MINI as the John Cooper Works
is launched at
the British International Motor Show.
not just for Men Only...
ON THE FACE OF IT, THE FASTEST-EVER PRODUCTION MINI is also the most expensive
at a fiver under £21,000 for the Hatchback version, which goes on sale from
22 July following its debut at the British International Motor Show.
Ninety-five per cent of the initial advance orders (accounting for all of the
first three months production) for the new JCW model are from male customers
but that doesn't mean that only men will be driving or using the cars
on a regular basis. In the UK, MINI customers range in age from 17 to 80 years,
and across the range the female to male sales split is 50:50. The new JCW Hatch
is also receiving significant interest from current owners of powerful sports
cars, saloons and even premium 4x4s who are now actively down-sizing due to
road congestion, parking issues, high taxation and rising fuel prices
but they still want a high-performance quality car.
And the JCW could be just the car to accommodate them. Not only do the new 208bhp
John Cooper Works Hatchback and the forthcoming JCW Clubman version deliver
the distinctive 'snap, crackle and pop' high-performance characteristics desired
by enthusiasts, but the new versions have loads of extra equipment and technical
enhancements. If priced individually or indeed if they were even available
as aftermarket items the enhancements would cost significantly more than
the new model's £20,995. For the record, the 173bhp MINI Cooper S Hatch is currently
priced at £16,245; the Cooper S Clubman costs £17,210.
Because the MINI is marketed by BMW Group as a 'premium' brand small car, it
is solidly built and has loads of specification and equipment fitted. All this,
unfortunately, adds weight and weight dulls performance and, worse still,
it has compromised the kart-like agility that made performance icons of the
original British Minis.
The German-owned company has responded to that by giving the JCW models edgier,
snappier performance, more power and torque and a return to the distinctive
exhaust note with its signature 'crackle and pop'.
So exactly what are we talking about in terms of performance? Well, the JCW
specification extracts 208bhp from the 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
petrol engine and, just as importantly, 192lb ft of torque (increases to 206lb
ft in overboost mode from 1,850 to 5,600rpm). This gives the new models a top
speed of 148mph, 0-62mph acceleration in 6.5 seconds and a combined official
fuel consumption of 40.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 165g/km. A year's road tax
costs £145 although from next April this will go up to £175.
Not only is this fastest production MINI built to date, it also offers the most
torque and it is the most costly to buy and to run. Real-life fuel consumption
during a hard test driving session over A and B roads saw my JCW Hatchback return
24.4mpg. More sympathetic driving will improve on this figure but even more
enthusiastic driving on roads or a race track will see consumption fall to around
But you cannot put a price on pure driving pleasure, and the smiles on the faces
of the motoring scribes after the world-first pre-launch test session last week
Delving deeper into what a John Cooper Works model is reveals the 1.6-litre
turbocharged direct injection petrol unit (as used with the 'standard' Cooper
S) to have been substantially modified. The basic structure of the die-cast
aluminium four-pot engine has not changed, nor has the forged crankshaft and
conrods. But the intake valves and valve seats have been upgraded with more
durable materials to cope with the increased operating temperature; the pistons
have reinforced sidewalls and a new crown design; and the compression ratio
is reduced to 10:1. The cylinder head now has wider diameter water channels
and the walls are thicker to overcome increased stress and hotspots. Finally,
the engine mapping has changed, as has the air mass sensor, and induction is
speeded up with a larger air intake.
Central to the performance improvements is a larger and stronger twin-scroll
turbocharger and exhaust manifold. A completely new exhaust system, available
only for the JCW models, has a larger bore and catalytic converter to speed
up gas flow and, of course, to return to the MINI its long-missed exhaust note.
Large polished stainless steel twin tailpipes enhance the signature burble,
crackle and pop sounds.
The six-speed manual transmission and clutch have been strengthened to cope
with the extra power and driving stresses. Without getting too technical, the
John Cooper Works models also have as standard ABS anti-lock braking operating
four-pot Brembo brakes with larger discs, Electronic Brake-force Distribution,
Cornering Brake Control, a new Electronic Differential Control (which improves
cornering traction by 20 per cent), Traction Control and Dynamic Stability Control.
There are also various controls including a Sport setting which,
depending on how the customer wants to drive their car, will either switch on
or off or sharpen still further these various handling packages. The suspension
is beefed up to handle the extra power and improve handling over the Cooper
S version, but for an additional £140 owners can specify a JCW sports suspension.
Other standard equipment includes a host of airbags, John Cooper interior styling
details, air conditioning, electric windows and door mirrors, distinctive cloth
upholstery and front sports seats.
Externally, the JCW MINIs have exclusive lightweight 17-inch alloy wheels shod
with run-flat tyres, a bespoke factory-fitted body styling kit which includes
the usual side sill, front and rear bumper extensions, rear roof spoiler, honeycomb
grille and various airflow vents.
With the added visual specification that sets this MINI apart from any other,
the unseen modifications to the engine, gearbox, suspension and brakes
and not to mention the very real increase in performance the extra cost
of the John Cooper Works Hatchback over the 'ordinary' Cooper S will be worth
it for many customers even though £21,000 for a MINI will leave some people
The doubters need only to book a test drive just to see how great this car really
is. The plentiful supply of power and torque is seamless and the responsive
delivery is superb throughout the rev range. It is at home being driven in top
gear at low speeds, or in stop-start traffic, as it is being thrashed on the
open roads or around a race track.
Yes, I agree that it sounds expensive and that you can expect high fuel costs
if you're addicted to, and enjoy, really fast driving. Major plusses for this
fastest-ever MINI hatch include the 'real fun' driving experience, performance,
handling, image and smile-making ability in a currently glum motoring world.
MINI will be also offering their well liked five-year/50,000 tlc £150 inflation-proof
servicing package for all the new John Cooper Works models Hatchback,
Clubman (first quarter of 2009) and the new Convertible (Spring 2009).
Yes, there is lots of torque-steer despite the 'trick' traction control and
electronic differential; yes, you do need to keep a firm grip on the steering
wheel under hard acceleration and cornering due to the grip available and it
being front-wheel drive. That said, the JCW is totally predictable; the kart-like
handling has returned and the brakes are strong. And yes, some road surfaces
deep potholes and oddly-cambered corners will unsettle the car
and the ride comfort when being driven at full tilt due to the short wheelbase,
but the car deserves your attention.
Drive one and I guarantee your smile will be as big as mine was when I'd finished
my test drive. To paraphrase the Americans: It's been real and it's been fun.
But more than that, it's been real fun. Enjoy! David Miles
MINI John Cooper Works Hatchback | £20,995
Maximum speed: 148mph | 0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Overall test MPG: 24.4mpg | Power: 208bhp | Torque: 192-206lb
CO2 165g/km | VED Band D £145 | Insurance group 17E