We help you to choose the perfect vehicle for you
Introduction: The MINI Cooper has been an icon when it comes to fun to drive hatchbacks in the world. The same brand came to India in Jan 2012 and ever since, has created its own niche among enthusiasts. Sold under the BMW Group, the MINI is available in various body styles including the Cooper, Countryman and Clubman. The Cooper 3-door is what we shall talk about here as it has kept owners grinning from ear to ear.
We have seen MINI bringing in performance accessories to India under the JCW or John Cooper Works banner and even a special edition meant to give owners added thrills but what you see here is the real deal - this is a genuine JCW model and not just a Cooper S with added bits here and there. Post the launch, we got a sample to experience the MINI JCW around the famous MMRT or Madras Motor Race Track just outside Chennai and here is what we think about it.
Interiors: When I got into the driver’s seat of the JCW model, the on-board display showed 49.5 degrees. I kid you not - the picture is somewhere here on the page. It was scorching hot in Chennai but I wasn’t complaining and for good reasons. For starters, the bucket seats felt at home for my 6 feet frame and the red-n-black theme does not seem loud or overdone by any standards. The design remains similar to that of the Cooper S and the main change here is the gear lever but more on that later. Also do remember, owners can customize the JCW’s interiors as per tastes.
The big round central screen gels in well with the retro theme and the round pods, air-con vents and even the inner door handles. And I have been a fan of those cool aircraft inspired toggle switches for operating the sunroof and even starting the engine itself. This is a true blue 2-door hatchback with just about enough legroom at the rear for two average side adults. Worthy of a mention is the fact that the seats don’t get power adjustments - you adjust them manually as per your driving position.
Engine and Gearbox: Press the red toggle button ahead of the gear lever and the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine fires up with a deep growl through the twin exhausts at the back. This time around, as this is a true JCW package, you get 231 bhp of power and 320 Nm of power. In terms of number, do concentrate here - the JCW’s pepped up motor gives you 39 more horses and 40 Nm of extra torque over the normal Cooper S. Also, in contrast to the JCW Pro edition launched in 2017, this new JCW MINI puts put 23 Bhp more and 18 Nm of extra torque.
Numbers aside, the JCW now gets an 8-speed torque converter and not a dual clutch set-up. Fret not, the gearbox is good enough to be left in Sports mode while you concentrate hard around the corners and straights of the track. The JCW has three driving modes to play with - Green for those who like to be environment conscious, MID or the comfort mode and finally the ‘Sport’ mode that we used non-stop during our stint around the race track.
Our media cars wore 205/45 Hankook tyres on 17-inch wheels and this along with a slightly stiffer suspension set-up meant handling expectedly was brilliant. We journalists being out and out petrol nuts, it wasn’t long before we were hammering down the little straights and sliding around the corners of the Madras Motor Race Track. The tyres and electronics do their best to keep the little hatchback composed and it even gets a front differential - those worrying about under-steer will love this feature.
Performance: We had a total of about 5 laps per person but as luck would have had it, the journalist friend with whom I was paired up for the drive had to leave early for his flight. I was all smiles and got another 5 laps on the house. The result? I was soon getting used to the JCW and around corners, kept on inching closer to the expert lead in front and only backed off when he radioed me seconds before braking into turns. This is also where the dose of pops kept me engaged all that time. This thing does sound very very good.
Verdict: Rs 43.5 lakh is a lot of money. Its over 9 lakhs more than the Cooper S but remember, you not only get a whole lot of performance extra, the kit on offer is also more. This includes multiple JCW badge in and out and even larger air vents for the turbocharger’s intercooler. You do get a massive sunroof and the black-red exterior paint job scores top marks from us. Just to put things into prospective in terms of pricing, the BMW Z4 20i retails at 64.9 lakh but puts out less power and less torque. No comparison but the fact the MINI JCW is the most performance-oriented hatchback you can buy in India does up and the ante for us. You want epic thrills without spending over half a crore? You know where to head to!