We at iCars.sg not only bring you the latest news and scoops on the local & international motoring scene, but we also tantalize you with some test reviews. Via these reviews, you not only get relevant information about a particular car, but also, you also get to share the driving experience with us! Our first test review; the Mini John Cooper Works! Continue reading for the full review.
The Mini JCW can be first distinguished from a standard Cooper S with its radiator and lower grilles finished in black with hexagon shaped holes which are wider. The John Cooper Works badge is placed on the left part of the grille to further add identity to the Mini JCW package. With the radiator grille outlined with a black glossy finish, the lower grille of the Mini JCW also features fog light clusters with ‘fins’ which are placed slightly further on both ends of the left and right to give you a ‘wider’, and sportier stance.
The centre part of the red colored hood with black “go fast” stripes is finished with Mini’s standard air intake, but it can be treated with a carbon fiber design as optional. Moving on to the sides of the car, you will first notice the chrome plated ‘E’ shaped side scuttles which sits side by side with colour-less side indicator lenses.
Between both wheel arches, more aggressive side skirts are fitted, this time with ‘E’ shaped ‘lats’ painted in glossy black. The lower rear bumper is beefed up a little, giving it a ‘wider’ look which complements the entire car. True to the Mini’s nature, the centre of the lower bumper gives way to the exhaust tail pipes and for the JCW; 85 mm twin tail pipes. Moving up wards, everything is pretty much similar to the Cooper S variant, except for the JCW badge on the right part of the trunk lid.
The optional rear spoiler on the black roof is fitted in the test drive unit, but, to be honest, you are better off with the standard ones. The so called ‘sportier’ spoiler seems very ‘toy-ish’ and I feel it gives a different vibe, compared to what the rest of the car is giving. Four run flat tires wrap around 17 inch Cross Spoke Challenge light weight alloys which comes as standard. Mini Singapore offers 18 inch versions as optional.
I think the designers have pulled it off with the exterior design, the car looks more aggressive and intimidating. The only thing I have to complain about is the funny looking rear spoiler!
The cabin of this JCW variant gives you a sporty, yet classy feeling with Recaro seats up front, featuring the JCW emblem reminding you the sporty nature of the car. Our test unit is fitted with standard front seats. The dash area looks like the standard Mini’s but with details that set this model apart; these include; a three spoke steering wheel fitted with radio control buttons, a gear knob with carbon fiber finish plus a JCW insignia on it and JCW door sill finishers.
Overall, the interior is finished with a combination of Alcantara and carbon fiber materials. Entertainment wise, there is a jack for your iPods and USB sticks. A total of 6 air bags are fitted in this nifty little car. Leg room and head room clearance for driver and front passenger is adequate, however rear passengers will find it a little difficult to move about. I tested the car with three passengers on board, and after about 100 km of travel distance, not much complaints from them. Not all is good though, as the rear view mirror is just too big for the small windscreen. Sometimes I had to duck my head a little just to get a proper view before making a left turn!
The 1598 cc with 16-valves is a responsive engine, and with the twin scroll turbocharger, pulling power is very good across the rev range. You will get a kick on the back when the rpm needle hits 2000 rpm, and this sensation continues till about 5500 rpm. After the 5500 mark, you feel like its taking that much longer before you hit 6500, and switch up a gear.
Switching gears of the 6-speed manual transmission is a breeze with a tidy gear lever. With optimum seating position you feel everything is within reach, giving you more confidence for spirited driving. 211HP (Coopers S has 175HP) at 6,000 rpm with 280Nm of torque is pretty good for such a small sized vehicle. The JCW is able to reach 100 km/h from stand still in about 6.5 seconds, and is able to hit 238 km/h in terms of top speed. Overtaking on the freeway is an easy thing to do with the turbo charged 4-cylinder engine.
Driving the JCW around tight twisty roads was a joy, since it features typical Mini handling dynamics. The car remains planted on the ground even with mid-corner acceleration, mild acceleration that is, because too much power will cause understeer since the engine has a lot of torque. Body roll is at the very minimal and ride comfort is a little hard which is fine since it is a sportier variant the Cooper S. The huge let down (to some people) is the torque steer! If I own one, I don’t think I will ever let anyone else drive it.
Even with normal cruising at 30km/h in second gear, the moment you fully depress the accelerator pedal, you will feel the torque through the steering wheel, self steering the car to the left and right. You got to hold it hard whenever you push it. The built in Electronic Differential Lock Control, does not really tame the torque steer, and I would expect Mini engineers to say that it is purposely designed that way to give a ‘raw’ driving sensation.
Other electronic assistance features in the JCW include; Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) with Brake Assist and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with sub-functions Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), all as standard. Up front the car has a single-link spring-strut axle and multi-link arrangement at the rear. Stopping power is good with 4 piston brake calipers by Brembo. All four corners feature disc brakes.
Another thing I have to mention is the exhaust sound! It “pops” on the overrun and whenever you are driving hard with the windows down, you can hear the turbo spinning at high revs. During the three days of my test drive, I had the windows down most of the time!
Overall, I like the Mini John Cooper Works, even with a ridiculous amount of torque steer during hard acceleration. The handling is sharp, gear change is slick and precise, and not to forget the beautiful exhaust note. The only major let down apart from the small sized interior (but its a Mini after all) is the hefty price tag compared to its other rivals such as the Renault Sport Clio F1 Team R27. The Mini JCW can be yours for $ 159,800 including COE. The Mini JCW is definitely a fun ride.