Ownership by BMW has taken Mini quite a bit from its beginnings. Although it still makes the Mini Cooper, the brand has expanded its offerings to include larger cars like the Countryman. And even though it also offers hybrids and EVs, Mini maintains some connections to its past. Particularly in the form of the Mini Cooper JCW models.
What makes the Mini Cooper JCW models different?
Technically, all of Mini’s cars are Mini Coopers. But the brand was originally just called ‘Mini,’ and its first models were branded ‘Austin’ or ‘Morris.’ The ‘Cooper’ comes from John Cooper, a British racer who turned Minis into high-performance rally cars. That’s where ‘JCW’ comes from— ‘John Cooper Works.’ And the moniker’s more than an appearance package.
The base 2020 Mini Cooper JCW starts at $33,400. For that, buyers get a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder rated at 228 hp and 236 lb-ft. That’s 39 hp more than you get in the $27,900 Cooper S. And in Car and Driver’s testing, it lets the hot hatch go 0-60 in 6 seconds. Unfortunately, the Mini Cooper JCW no longer offers a 6-speed manual. An 8-speed paddle-shifted automatic is the only transmission.
However, the JCW trim does add Brembo brakes, stiffer suspension, a rear spoiler, and a limited-slip differential. It also adds keyless ignition and entry and heated mirrors. Android Auto isn’t available, though. But you can get a Mini Cooper JCW convertible.
The smallest Mini isn’t the only one with a JCW trim, though. Both the Countryman and Clubman offer it, too. As with the Mini Cooper JCW, the Countryman and Clubman use a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. However, for the crossovers, it’s boosted to 301 hp and 331 lb-ft. In addition, while the Mini Cooper has front-wheel drive, the Countryman and Clubman have all-wheel drive. The latter goes 0-60 in 4.6 seconds, Gear Patrol reports. The former does it in 4.9 seconds.
Like the smaller car, the Mini Countryman and Clubman JCW have Brembo brakes, limited-slip differentials, and stiffer suspension, Motor Trend reports. And their standard features list mirrors the Mini Cooper JCW, Roadshow reports.
What are the Mini Cooper JCW cars like to drive?
In terms of driving fun, all the Mini Cooper JCW models deliver.
The Mini Cooper, Roadshow reports, handles like a go-kart, with sharp steering and handling. And because it’s relatively small and low, Car and Driver reports, even road-legal speeds feel fast. There’s also an optional Bluetooth-controlled sports exhaust that adds more audio drama.
The crossovers are also enjoyable to toss around a twisty road. The automatic transmission, Roadshow reports, is smooth around town but delivers fast shifts in Sport Mode. MT reports the stiffer suspension does minimize body roll. And Gear Patrol found the ride composed outside of Sport Mode. That is, as long as you checked the box for the adjustable dampers.
The suspension is also one of the Mini Cooper, Countryman, and Clubman JCW’s drawbacks. Without the adjustable dampers, the ride is fairly stiff, especially on imperfect roads. Space, though, isn’t a problem. Value, though, is.
The Countryman and Clubman JCW cost about $40,000. But not only is Android Auto not available, to get Apple CarPlay, but it’s also bundled with navigation in the JCW Iconic trim. Which adds about $6000-$7000 to the base price. Adding driver-assistance features also requires stepping up to at least the mid-tier JCW Signature.
Some of the Mini Cooper JCW’s rivals do offer a bit more value.
If you’re after a fun, iconic hot hatch, the updated-for-2020 Honda Civic Type R is about $3000 cheaper than the base Cooper JCW. But it has more standard features, including Honda’s full ADAS suite. It’s also more powerful, and roughly a full second quicker to 60, Car and Driver reports. Plus, it’s only available with a stick.
Cheaper hot hatch options include the Hyundai Veloster N and Volkswagen GTI. The Veloster N is now available with a dual-clutch as well as a manual. And it’s also Road & Track’s Performance Car of the Year for 2020. In fact, during testing, reviewers directly equated with the Mini Cooper JCW.
The Volkswagen GTI, meanwhile, offers Audi-like interior quality with a base price of about $10,000 less than the JCW. Plus, its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes more power. And its handling is what makes it a repeat Car and Driver 10Best winner.
The Mini Cooper Countryman and Clubman JCW occupy slightly-odd places in the crossover segment. However, for about $3000 more than a Countryman JCW Signature, you could get a base Porsche Macan. It delivers great handling and steering without a punishing ride. Though admittedly, adding options can get costly, Car and Driver reports.
But Roadshow reports there is another BMW product that offers a better value than the Countryman: the X2 M35i. It has the same four-cylinder engine, and roughly the same 0-60 time. But you get more standard features for its $46,450 starting price.
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