MINI Coupe JCW – Review

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By Liam Bird

Cynics and fans of the original MINI (I’m including myself on both lists) have sometimes accused BMW, makers of the “modern” MINI, of stretching the concept a little too far. Over the years we’ve seen the introduction of the Cooper and then the Cooper S. Next came the Convertible, followed by the asymmetrically doored Clubman; and soon after that, the larger-than-life Countryman, complete with four-wheel drive.

mini cooupe silver front angle viewBut let us not forget that BMC, the people who brought us the original Mini, also gave us not only the Traveller and Moke, but also the Riley Elf, the Wolseley Hornet, the van, the pick-up, the Clubman, the 1275GT… the list goes on and on.

The latest offering from BMW, however – until the roadster appears that is – is this car, the strictly two seater MINI Coupe. Surely the first thing anyone approaching a MINI Coupe for first time must ask is: is it actually good looking? Having spent the last week with one the jury is still out. Most of the comments I’ve overheard whilst out and about in it have been good, surprisingly complimentary even.

“Sleeker shape”

But I must admit, I’m still not entirely sure how I would answer that question under pressure. Despite looking smaller than the more familiar hatchback, the Coupe’s only different dimension is its height. A more steeply raked windscreen and the sloping rear window and helmet-like roof give the Coupe its distinctive appearance. It’s still instantly recognisable as a MINI just not like any one we’ve seen the likes of before.

mini coupe jcw interior dashboard red trimThe good news is that despite the 29mm roof-chop, taller drivers can still be accommodated thanks to oval recesses in the headlining. The sleeker shape is said to improve aerodynamics too. Inside, the Coupe retains all of the usual MINI design language and quirkiness. The dashboard is dominated by the central combined speedo–come-sat-nav unit, there’s a liberal smattering of chrome toggle switches, oval pedals fill the footwell, and retro-looking sports seats hold both driver and passenger nicely in place.

There’s no back seat of course, but depending on your height you may find enough room to store a laptop bag or a jacket or two behind you. The Coupe’s boot on the other hand, is impressively capacious, bigger even than that of its Clubman stable mate. For some this little car could prove to be acceptably practical. It’s unlikely though that you’ll be considering a MINI Coupe if you’re a wardrobe dealer.

“Think yourself around corners”

mini coupe jcw reviewFortunately, like all MINIs the Coupe’s forte is the way it drives. In John Cooper Works trim (as tested here) 0 to 60mph takes just 6.4 seconds and, where allowed, 149mph is possible. This is the fastest volume-produced MINI to date. The steering is so direct you simply think yourself around corners and although stiff, the ride is not the bone jarring experience the 17 rims and 45 section tyres hint it might be. Because of its short gearing the JCW feels quick in whichever ratio you choose and a snickety shift-action helps keep things really on the boil. Pressing the Sport button just adds to this little car’s sense of urgency, deactivating the stability control just makes your smile wider.

Quite how long you’ll keep that smile on a long motorway schlep, though, is a matter of debate; the Coupe isn’t entirely relaxing. It’s not entirely cheap either. Designed to steal sales from Audi’s TT and Peugeot’s RCZ the JCW Coupe will set you back £23,795, and that’s before you start ticking the options list. It’s pricey but, no doubt about it, it’s also the most entertaining MINI in years.

MINI Coupe John Cooper Works
Engine: 1598 cc 16V 4Cyl turbo
Transmission: 6 speed manual, front wheel drive
Power: 208 bhp @6000rpm
Torque: 192lb ft @1850- 5600rpm
0-62 MPH: 6.4 Sec
Max Speed: 149mph
CO2: 165g/km
MPG: 39.8 Combined
Price: £23,795 (car shown £29,415)

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