Ford Fiesta ST v Peugeot 208 GTI v Nissan Juke Nismo v Mini Cooper S JCW v Renault Clio 200 Turbo - Mini Cooper S JCW: Hot hatch group test

An old favourite of ours, the Mini Cooper S JCW still has a lot to offer.

Back at base camp (or picnic spot, depending how Bear Grylls you’re feeling) the Mini seems like a good choice to take next as it shares its engine with the Peugeot, albeit with an extra 11bhp. Some love the Mini’s classless design language while others think it’s contrived and too retro by half, but there’s no denying that the JCW feels like a quality item when you get inside. It also feels wonderfully low and small, with its upright windscreen making the interior seem more intimate than the others’. The seats aren’t the most supportive and the Alcantara on the steering wheel seems to be in the wrong places, but it’s an interesting cabin to be in and by the standards of this group test certainly feels quite mini (with a small ‘m’).

Driving back down the same stretch of tarmac, the comparison couldn’t be much more stark. The Mini feels like it has half the travel of the Peugeot. It’s constantly busy over the bumps and lumps, and stays resolutely flat in its cornering stance. It’s still well damped, but everything feels immediate and kart-like in its reactivity. It’s insatiably keen to dive at an apex, sniff out a camber or stand on its nose when you hit the brakes, and it also feels stonkingly fast.

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While the Peugeot simply has the choice of ESP on or ESP off, the Mini JCW has both a Sport mode and three levels of DSC to play with. The Sport setting affects both steering and power delivery, and while the latter is instantly a boon, the steering can feel almost too physical on roads like this where there’s so much to do. However, you soon rely on the extra weight and precision that Sport provides as you engage in a sort of good-natured tussle with the feisty Mini, chucking it around and revelling in its tightly wound exuberance.

Specifications

Engine In-line 4-cyl, 1598cc, turbo
Power 208bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque 206lb ft @ 1850rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive, EDLC
Front suspension MacPherson struts, coil springs, dampers, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension Multi-link, coil springs, dampers, anti-roll bar
Brakes 316mm ventilated discs front, 280mm solid discs rear, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist
Wheels 7 x 17in front and rear
Tyres 205/45 R17 front and rear
Weight (kerb) 1205kg (claimed)
Power-to-weight 175bhp/ton
0-62mph 7.4sec (claimed)
Top speed 148mph (claimed)
Basic price £22,460

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