Mini John Cooper Works review - most powerful production Mini ever

Dan Prosser
20 Oct 2015

Mini John Cooper Works is at its best with a manual gearbox and Dunlop tyres, but it’s still off the pace of the best in class

Evo Rating: 
Performance, improved dynamics on Dunlop tyres
Ford Fiesta ST is still more fun

evo Verdict 

With 228bhp, the 2015 Mini John Cooper Works is the most powerful production car the brand has ever made. Sitting above even the likes of the trackday-inspired GP – an evo favourite – in terms of pure performance, on paper the new car promises plenty of excitement.

An updated interior for the latest Mini means the JCW’s £23,050 base price feels justified, while the performance is a significant step above that of the 189bhp Cooper S.

Mini has really nailed the small and agile brief with the latest JCW. The car feels light and nimble, if a little devoid of feedback. All that added performance does however occasionally mean the Mini comes unstuck. A lack of front-end grip can lead to unpleasant understeer, while the electronic differential can’t always cope with such generous power, with mechanical-differential-equipped rivals performing better out of corners.

The other issue we have with the JCW is the cost. It’s entirely possible to surpass £30,000 by ticking a few options. That puts the car in line with far more potent hyper-hatch competition, such as the Volkswagen Golf R. That said, charisma, a well-finished interior and a big enough step up over the Cooper S mean the new JCW doesn’t disappoint. Just make sure you’re careful with options.

evo Comment

‘With a few more miles at the wheel I realise that the chassis has enough natural balance that you can drive through the tyres’ lack of outright grip, letting the car settle into a very gentle, almost imperceptible four-wheel drift from apex to apex. My harsh opinion of the car softens a touch with this discovery, but a few miles down the road I find myself wishing, once more, for more precision in the tyres and outright grip.’ - Dan Prosser, Road Test Editor (Dawn Raiders, evo 211). 

evo Tip

The £240 adaptive dampers are definitely worth investing in. The JCW is significantly stiffer than a Cooper S, but the Normal setting with the trick dampers does a lot to soften the ride off.

The six-speed torque-converter auto ’box is definitely quick, but we’d go for a manual in order to get the most interaction from the driving experience. It's cheaper, too.

Performance and 0-62 time > Numbers on the spec sheet place the JCW at the sharp end of hot-hatchery. Real world tests confirm it's suitably rapid.

Engine and gearbox > With a 2-litre four-cylinder engine, the JCW feels fast in any gear. The auto might be faster, but the manual better suits the car's frenetic demeanour, and features automatic rev-matching on downshifts.

Ride and handling > Stiff suspension enables composed body control, but adjustability of adaptive damping broadens car's usability. At its best on better tyres than the standard squealing Pirelli Cinturatos.

Interior and tech > Some might not like the busy dash, but the overall premium interior finish wins over all. A better cabin to live with than the twee looks suggest.

Design > The new Mini's bulbous looks are substantially improved with the fitment of 18-inch wheels and more aggressive bumpers.

Prices, specs and rivals > Tick a few options boxes and the JCW fast approaches £30,000. But even at base price, to live with day-to-day, it's amongst the very best in its class.

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