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  • Vision and ease of parking; intake and exhaust theatre in Sport mode; plenty of John Cooper Works branding to remind yourself, and others, just what car you’re driving
  • Not that fast or engaging; steering and agility short of ‘Mini’ expectation; pricey and at odds with aspects of its heritage

LIFESTYLE RATING
7.5 / 10



2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review

Who wouldn’t want a Mini to themselves for a week? Small, fun, entertaining: these are the things that make Minis great. However, sharing a car with family, friends or co-workers is a different story. Sometimes you want more time with “your” car and sometimes others do. For sure, there was plenty of in-fighting within the CarAdvice Melbourne office when we recently “shared” a week with the new 2015 Mini John Cooper Works.

Priced from $47,400 (before on-road costs) for the six-speed manual version, our Chilli Red six-speed “Steptronic” automatic Mini John Cooper Works sits atop the three-door hatch range at $49,950 (before on-road costs).

Coming in $50 dearer than the five-door, manual-only Audi S1 quattro, the front-wheel-drive Mini JCW matches the four-ringed German by having a 170kW turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine tucked into its stubby nose. With 320Nm of torque though, the BMW-owned Brit is down 50Nm compared with the Volkswagen-owned Audi, which reflects in a marginal 0.2-second slower 0-100km/h time (6.1 seconds plays 5.9sec).

But the Mini has something that the slightly larger Audi doesn’t have: a JCW badge. Or, more accurately, four JCW badges. There’s one on the front grille, one on the tailgate and two incorporated into the side indicator “scuttles” (as Mini call them). Oh, and there’s also another six brand reminders splashed about, including on the door sills, steering wheel, speedometer, JCW sports seats, red Brembo brake calipers and two-tone 18-inch JCW Cup light-alloy wheels.

2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review

At near enough to $50k, the flagship Mini hatch is neat inside, but once nestled into the comfortable, manually adjustable, white-stitched Dinamica and cloth seats, it simply doesn’t feel as premium as it should.

The chrome accented door handles are solid in their mounting but feel relatively cheap to the touch. The Mini’s new soft-touch dash-top is a welcome addition, but there’s still plenty of hard plastics scattered throughout the cabin, including around the 8.8-inch central infotainment screen (formerly the home of the classic Mini central speedo). A multicoloured LED light strip also encircles the whole unit, adding unnecessary cheese factor.

Storage isn’t bad with two cup holders, a compact but reasonable glovebox, a cleverly hidden spot behind a passenger-side carbon-look dash trim and a small netted pocket next to the front passenger’s right ankle. There are door pockets too, though they’re only really adequate for holding paper or perhaps a packet of mints or gum.

Helped by the third-generation F56 Mini’s larger dimensions – it’s 116mm longer, 44mm wider, and 7mm taller than its R56 predecessor – backseat room in the new JCW is more than palatable. Strictly able to accommodate two passengers, the second-row offers acceptable headroom for six-footers, however toe room is tight. Two kids in the back would be no issue, provided they’re happy scooching past the front seats that is.

2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review

The 60:40 rear seats also fold down, expanding the boot beyond its 211-litre seat-up capacity. Dropping the seats does create an unhelpful load step, however this inconvenience is not something unique to the Mini.

Vision is a big positive for the little car. The mirrors are good and, being a two-door, you don’t have chunky B-pillars restricting over-shoulder vision. The C-pillars aren’t too intrusive either and, along with front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, parking is quite easy.

That said, blind-spot assist is not offered at all and adaptive cruise control, autonomous collision and pedestrian warning and braking technology is only available as part of an optional $1500 “Control pack” – one which additionally includes adaptive LED headlights, high beam assist and tyre pressure monitoring.

Comprising “Professional” satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio and a rocking 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, the JCW’s infotainment system is clearly from the BMW family, though in the Mini it all feels old hat compared with the latest roundel-stamped Bavarian models.

Adding to the feeling of driving “last year’s BMW”, are steering wheel-mounted cruise control, audio, and phone buttons that are equally outdated compared with new Beemer product. The three-spoke sports steering wheel itself, featuring red stitching and perforated leather, is an ideal size and feels good in the hands.

2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review

Finally too – particularly for the sportier JCW – Mini has replaced its long-persisted up/down push/pull shift system for more conventional paddles shifters, where a pull of the left paddle requests a down change and a pull of the right for an up shift.

Hit the blacktop and the 2015 Mini John Cooper Works is spritely but not fast. The punchy 2.0-litre picks up well enough and, with myriad engine, turbo and exhaust noises resulting from engaging the Mini’s “Sport” driving mode, sounds pretty damn good doing it.

But while the spool, pops and wastegate chatter may make some smile, there’s an overall feeling of gimmickry to the car that’s hard to shake. It just lacks a sense of sincerity and authenticity.

Despite weighing only 35kg more than the previous turbocharged 1.6-litre three-door JCW, through twisty stuff the new 1220kg John Cooper Works doesn’t feel as fun and agile and light as a Mini should. Impressively though, it’s still 195kg leaner than the 1415kg Audi S1.

The steering lacks communication and feedback and is detached and delayed in its response to driver input. Weighting in “Comfort” mode isn’t bad, with “Sport” simply making things heavier, rather than better. At 10.8 metres – the all-paw S1 is 10.6m – the front-drive JCW also doesn’t have a brilliant turning circle, which again, makes it feel less nimble, less “city focused”, and less Mini.

2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review

The automatic transmission is not a particular highlight when left to its own devices, often holding onto gears for too long, and we can’t help but think a manual gearbox would make the whole package significantly more fun.

The ride on the Mini JCW’s standard Dynamic Damper Control (DDC) setup is firm but livable in “Comfort”, becoming noticeably stiffer in “Sport”. Being able to switch between the two calibrations is good, though it doesn’t make the car any more enticing to drive.

More than feeling largely at odds with its heritage, the new 2015 Mini John Cooper Works feels a little generic and underwhelming – and I wasn’t the only one in the Melbourne office to have mixed feelings about the car.

Others thought it had ample pace and still retained Mini’s trademark “go-kart” sensation, but questioned its value proposition, with some suggesting a standard Cooper S or entry-level three-cylinder Mini One would be more fun while carrying less expectation.

Personally, I loved the R56 Mini – particularly the last Mini JCW GP. I used to own a 1976 Leyland Mini S. I love Minis. But the new 2015 JCW feels relatively big, heavy and kitsch.

As a fan of Mini cars and the Mini brand, I can’t help but attach some level of disappointment to the new JCW. It’s not a bad car by any stretch of the imagination but after a week with the car, getting a taste of what life would be like to live with it long-term, it doesn’t feel ‘Mini’ enough – falling short of the genuine character and flair of past models.

2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review

There’s still a lot to like about the 2015 Mini John Cooper Works. Some buyers will find it fun and entertaining and get plenty of enjoyment out of it. That said, a more enthusiast or traditionalist fan of the marque, may perhaps be less satisfied. Either way, we’d love to get behind the wheel of a ‘proper’ manual one, and maybe even take it out for one of our Weekend Warrior track tests

Click on the Photos tab for more 2015 Mini John Cooper Works images by Tom Fraser.


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MINI COOPER BREAKDOWN

2015 Mini John Cooper Works:: Week with Review
  • 7.5
  • 6.5
  • 7
  • 6.5
  • 7.5
  • 9
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Mini Cooper Specs

JCW : F56 : 2.0L TURBO MPFI - 6 SP AUTOMATIC - PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL - 2D HATCHBACK
Car Details
Make
MINI
Model
COOPER
Variant
JCW
Series
F56
Year
2015
Body Type
2D HATCHBACK
Seats
4
Pricing
New Price
N/A
Private Sale
$41,690 - $47,380
Dealer Retail
$41,260 - $49,060
Dealer Trade
$32,000 - $37,900
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
TURBO MPFI
Engine Size
2.0L
Cylinders
TURBO 4
Max. Torque
320Nm @  1250rpm
Max. Power
170kW @  5200rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
144.1W/kg
Bore & Stroke
84x90.1mm
Compression Ratio
10.0
Valve Gear
VARIABLE DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
6 SP AUTOMATIC
Drive Type
NOT PROVIDED
Final Drive Ratio
0
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
0Litres
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
5.8L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1180
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1414mm
Length
3874mm
Width
1727mm
Ground Clearance
143mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:0  Unbrake:0
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
10.8
Front Rim Size
7x18
Rear Rim Size
7x18
Front Tyres
205/40 R18
Rear Tyres
205/40 R18
Wheel Base
2495
Front Track
1485
Rear Track
1485
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Multi-link system, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Comfort
Auto Climate Control with Dual Temp Zones, Sport Seats
Control & Handling
Adaptive Damping Control, 18 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Traction Control System
Driver
Cruise Control, Head Up Display, Leather Steering Wheel, Multi Function Steering Wheel, Mobile Phone Connectivity, Parking Distance Control, Power Steering, Reversing Camera, Satellite Navigation, Trip Computer
Entertainment
Sound System with 12 Speakers
Exterior
Power Mirrors, Rear Spoiler
Interior
Cloth Trim, Power Windows
Safety
Dual Front Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Side Airbags
Security
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Comfort
Heated Front Seats, Power Sunroof
Exterior
Metallic Paint
Interior
Leather Upholstery
Package
Convenience Pack
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  25,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Driver Side Inner Guard
Country of Origin
United Kingdom