Fast and fun: John Cooper Works Mini is big where it matters

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The Mini John Cooper Works will hit 62 mph (100 km/h) from a standstill in 6.3 seconds(Credit: Stu Robarts/Gizmag)

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Late last year, Mini announced that there was to be a new John Cooper Works (JCW) model of its iconic car. That meant taking the Mini's typical bubblegum style, churning it through the JCW performance-machine and creating something altogether less wholesome. Gizmag took it for a spin.

As we reported when the new JCW was announced, Mini hasn’t held back on this occasion. It is the company's most powerful car to date, with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine kicking out 231 hp (172 kW) and 320 Nm (236 lb.ft) of torque. It will hit 62 mph (100 km/h) from a standstill in 6.3 seconds and has a top speed of 150 mph (240 km/h). Mini also says it will do 50-75 mph (80-121 km/h) more quickly than a Porsche Carrera, in just 5.6 seconds.

In short, this is a car for enjoying. It’s Mini’s flag-in-the-sand hot-hatch ... and hot it most certainly is. The JCW is pleasingly sharp in all of its driving modes. When you put your foot down, not only does it take off, but there's a deep, guttural gurgle that spews out of the engine. It really feels like this is a car that just wants to play.

The model we drove had the sports-auto transmission option. Semi-automatics routinely have a frustrating lag between hitting the gas and the acceleration actually kicking in. Although there's an inevitable slight lag with the JCW, the pick-up actually wasn't too bad.

The different driving modes afford a good degree of control over the feel of the car too. There’s a clear feel to the intention of each mode. As you’d expect, the "green" eco mode slows things down a touch, with softer acceleration, steering and suspension. It’s a pleasant drive, though, and is ideal for pootling around town.

Nudging the JCW into its first sports mode makes things a little more responsive and it's probably the most suitable setting for day-to-day driving in areas that aren't too busy. The sportiest, stiffest mode, meanwhile, is really best reserved for empty and winding country roads. The steering is lively, the acceleration voracious and there's a real sense of nervous energy, almost twitchiness, about it. A variable damper control optional extra allows for adjustment of the configurations to an even greater extent.

It has to be said that, while comfortable, the seats in the JCW don't offer a great deal of support and, even in the softest driving mode, an awful lot of the road can be felt through them. That's fine for short journeys or when you're nipping around the corners on country roads, but there's no doubt you'll really feel it after long journeys.

As you'd expect with a top-end Mini, there are a variety of nifty features that either come as standard or can be added as extras. There's a nice big infotainment screen for displaying info, settings and navigation, along with a host of media and Bluetooth functions. There's also a rather fetching "Rebel Green" finish exclusive to the JCW. Among the extras on the the model we drove were cruise control, an adjustable head-up display that provides clear and simple driving info and a Harman Kardon sound-system.

The Mini, in its current guise, is typically as much of a fashion accessory as it is anything else. Not only does the new JCW model look slick, but it's a huge amount of fun to drive. The JCW is available worldwide, but in its three biggest markets prices start at £23,050 (UK), $30,600 (US) and €29,900 (Germany).

You can see more photos of the Mini JCW in our gallery.

View gallery - 15 images

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