Mini John Cooper Works review - quick and engaging but suffering from middle-aged spread - Engine and gearbox

The JCW is certainly fast and relatively sophisticated for a hot hatch but it’s doesn’t quite have the fun factor of its chief rival

Evo rating
Price
from £23,790
  • Performance, grip, refinement
  • Price, not as involving to drive as the Ford Fiesta ST

Engine and gearbox

The engine is a 2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged unit with 228bhp and 236lb ft of torque. It's closely related to the motor in the Cooper S, but boasts some significant internal changes in order to bring about the extra power. Lower compression pistons in the JCW’s engine means that the turbo’s boost has been increased, consequently upping the power. The turbo has also been relocated to reduce the distance the exhaust gases need to travel in an attempt to quicken response and deliver power across a wider rev range.

The engine isn’t the most characterful of units, but the tweaks do mean that it’s certainly effective. The most noticeable change is that maximum torque is delivered at 1250rpm, which means the JCW pulls hard from a near-standstill. The full 228bhp arrives later, at 5200rpm. 

The JCW is available with a choice of either manual or automatic gearboxes. The six-speed manual is your best bet, as it suits the car’s character better, the short, slick throw pairing well with the JCW’s handling characteristics. The manual gearbox also features an automatic rev-match function – which oddly only comes into play when in Sport mode – and this might not be to everyone’s taste but can serve a purpose during fast driving or can be disabled by turning off the traction control entirely. 

Where the pre-facelift version of the JCW used a six-speed torque-converter gearbox the latest incarnation has an eight-speed Steptronic auto and it’s quick enough both going up and down the ’box. As is the fashion now, upshifts cause the JCW to emit a little burp from its exhaust on full-bore changes. It comes as standard with shift paddles on either side of the wheel to make the auto ’box a little bit more engaging.

Most Popular

Mercedes S-class 2021 review – the ‘best car in the world’ just got better
Mercedes S-class – front tracking
Mercedes

Mercedes S-class 2021 review – the ‘best car in the world’ just got better

It may be slipping out of fashion, but the institution that is Mercedes’ S-class is only getting stronger
22 Jul 2021
Lotus Emira makes world debut – all-new coupe to rival Alpine A110
Lotus Emira
Lotus

Lotus Emira makes world debut – all-new coupe to rival Alpine A110

Lotus's first all-new car for a quarter of a century comes AMG power and sub-£60,000 price tag
13 Jul 2021
New Audi RS3 revealed – AMG’s A45 S rival returns fitter and faster
2021 Audi RS3 Sportback – front tracking
Audi RS3

New Audi RS3 revealed – AMG’s A45 S rival returns fitter and faster

After months of tech insights, we now finally get to see the all-new Audi RS3 in its finished form
19 Jul 2021