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The Mini Cooper JCW GP Is a Serious Honda Civic Type R Rival

While the John Cooper Works Minis are genuinely fast and fun, there are a few hot hatches that are even faster. For example, the recently-updated Honda Civic Type R. But for the hardcore driving enthusiast, there’s a new Mini Cooper available: the Mini Cooper JCW GP. And it’s seriously gunning for the Civic Type R’s hot hatch crown. Maybe a bit too seriously.

2021 Mini Cooper JCW GP vs. Honda Civic Type R

The 2021 Mini Cooper JCW GP isn’t the first GP, Jalopnik reports. The first GP, back in 2006, featured a 215-hp supercharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder. Then a few years later, the 2nd-gen car debuted with new suspension and a 211-hp turbocharged four-cylinder.

A black-and-red 2020 Mini Cooper JCW GP coming out of a blue track-side garage
2020 Mini Cooper JCW GP | Mini

The 2021 Mini JCW GP also has a turbocharged engine, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, Road & Track reports. Only it produces 301 hp and 331 lb-ft, sent to the front wheels via an 8-speed automatic and limited-slip differential, Motor Trend reports. With that, Mini claims the 2021 JCW GP can go 0-60 in 5 seconds.

Blue 2020 Honda Civic Type R driving around a corner
2020 Honda Civic Type R | Honda

The 2020 Honda Civic Type R also comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a limited-slip differential. And it too comes with FWD and a large rear wing. But, unlike the Mini JCW GP, a 6-speed manual is the only transmission available. And with 306 hp and 290 lb-ft, the Civic Type R matches the GP’s 0-60-time, Car and Driver reports.

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The rest of the Mini Cooper JCW GP has also been tuned for performance. It has an active exhaust and additional radiators to manage engine heat, Automobile reports. It’s also about 0.4” lower than the standard JCW Cooper, with a wider front track and ventilated front disc brakes. The suspension’s been upgraded with stiffer springs, dampers, and bushings, as well as a front strut-tower brace, Autoblog reports. The GP also comes with a lift-reducing front spoiler and upgraded stability control.

The red aluminum brace that replaces the 2020 Mini Cooper JCW GP's rear seat
2020 Mini Cooper JCW GP interior | Mini

But there’s still more to the Mini GP; or rather, less. To save weight, it rides on aluminum 18” wheels and has less noise insulation. The wheel arches are made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. And there’s no back seat, just a red aluminum strut.

The Mini Cooper JCW GP may be a bit too hardcore

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The Mini Cooper JCW GP isn’t spartan, though. Its remaining two seats are well-bolstered, and trimmed in leather and suede. The steering wheel is leather-wrapped, and has 3D-printed metal shift paddles. Plus, it comes standard with touchscreen navigation, Apple CarPlay, and a wireless charging pad.

However, not only does the Honda Civic Type R have an actual back seat, its standard infotainment system includes navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. And for the 2020 model year, the CTR comes with Honda’s full suite of driver-assistance features, MT reports. That includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring. In contrast, the base Mini Cooper JCW only comes standard with the first of those 3.

Then there’s the matter of driving. In terms of speed, the Mini JCW GP delivers, Car and Driver reports. Mini claims it went around the Nürburgring in under 8 minutes, which is a very impressive time, especially for a FWD car.

On the road, R&T says “[t]he GP is one of those cars that’s constantly traveling at least 10 mph faster than you think.” And Autoweek reports that, while the suspension isn’t quite as harsh as you’d think, it does keep the hot hatch flat through the corners. Even under acceleration and braking, the Mini JCW GP stays level.

But it’s still not quite at the Honda Civic Type R’s level. While the Mini JCW GP’s steering is sharp, the Civic Type R’s is sharper still, Autoweek reports. The CTR also rides more comfortably and quietly, R&T reports. Yet, if you wanted to, you could still take it to the track and back with little issue.

And that’s all before the pricing gets involved.

Pricing and the future CTR

Mini is only making 3000 JCW GPs, with a starting price of $45,570. That’s about $8700 more than the Honda Civic Type R, which also has a sub-8-minute Nürburgring time, Roadshow reports. Not to mention, with 4 doors, a rear seat, and more standard safety features, it’s more practical.

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There’s also the matter of the next-gen CTR. Rumors claim the 2022 Honda Civic Type R will borrow hybrid tech from the Acura NSX supercar, MT, and The Drive report. Allegedly, not only will that give the Type R 395 hp, but it’ll also grant it AWD. Even if that bumps the price up to the GP’s level, it’s likely the Honda would still be a relative bargain.

Ultimately, if you’re after a hot hatch for the track, the Mini Cooper JCW GP is by no means a bad place to start. But the Civic Type R’s slightly less-serious nature makes it the better car for the road.

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