Mini's new hot hatch in SA: JCW for thrills!

JANINE VAN DER POST
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 NEXT-GEN FUN! Mini's new John Cooper Works offering has arrived in South Africa. Image: Mini South Africa

Has Mini turned its John Cooper Works into the ultimate supermini? Has it lost the plot or is the automaker on to something special here with its latest JCW sport-tuned offering?

Who is John Cooper? A chap born in 1923 who laid the foundation for Mini’s racing heritage for the past 55 years which was continued by his offspring. Fast forward to 2015 and John Cooper Works legacy continues with a blistering little hatchback.

HOT-HATCH PERFORMER

What once was something special - the ultimate Mini for enthusiasts – has become a serious hot-hatch contender that could take on VW’s Golf GTI or Ford’s Focus ST, if you're comparing power figures and pricing that is.

It's incredibly quick off the line and its performance is on par with more popular hatches in SA.

GALLERY: 2015 John Cooper Works Mini

Mini has always won the hearts of female drivers – not that it’s a "car for girls" but the automaker has garnered a reputation for being a cute, compact hatchback. Mini has evolved over the years to become a wolf in sheep’s clothes  and, anyone behind the wheel of the new JCW should not be underestimated – at least the car shouldn’t be.

It's a "new generation of thrills" says the automaker and with 170kW on tap, brilliant handling and road-hugging ability, it's hard to argue with Mini.

The John Cooper Works models are targeted at a global niche and the truth is in the numbers. Since its original debut in 2008 there are 562 units driving the streets of South Africa.

GIVING IT THE WORKS

Mini has given the new JCW the complete works, no pun intended. We’re talking a newly developed 2.0 litre four-cylinder TwinTurbo Technology engine with optimised suspension, a sports brake system, optimised aerodynamics which all boost performance-oriented power delivery and emotive sound thanks to specifically designed pistons, turbocharger and tuned exhaust.

This car has the most powerful engine ever fitted in the brand’s serial production model range, claims the automaker. Power figures are rated at a 10% increase of 170kW compared to the previous model and 23% more torque at 320Nm; 6.7 litres/100km combined fuel consumption and 156g/km CO2 emissions.

For now, the JCW is available with a six-speed Steptronic sports transmission –which will later be available as optional when the six-speed manual gearbox is available as of September/October 2015. Production for the manual version only began in July.

HOW DOES IT DRIVE?

The more throttle you give, the sportier the sound, and thus the urge to try and reach the claimed top speed of 246km/h – and no, of course we don’t drive that fast on launches.

The JCW offers a thrilling drive and it’s quite enjoyable to eke out every bit of power from this gutsy little car. Oddly, the previous model felt like it had more grunt even though it produced less power. The 2015 version feels more refined with its seamless gearbox.