Daring to be different

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By Nick Jones

Of all the cars in MINI’s line up at the moment, the John Cooper Works version of the hot and cute Coupe looks like the one to raise the bar for the iconic brand.

The shape is the major talking point for sure.

At first I wasn’t a fan, instead opting to like more the (bulbous) normal version later the 4Life versions.

But somehow when this landed on my drive I found it to be quite appealing, even though it looked a bit like something had sat on it.

The Coupe draws you to it and as you drive it you see your reflection in shop windows and all of a sudden it begins to make sense – at least for two of you.

Yes, room for two only I’m afraid, but the through-loading facility from the boot means you can carry some sizeable luggage and the weeks’ shopping.

Sharing all the bits with the Roadster version, the Coupe has dared to be different in a plethora of hot hatches, coupes and roadsters.

One of the most startling points for me was how raked the windscreen is. According to the literature, it has an extra 13 degrees of rake which is quite amazing; any more rake and the top of it would be past your forehead it’s that slanted.

Build quality is right up there with all the rest of the range.

And I liked the feel of the steering wheel in the hand - it’s not too weighty which is fine, only starting to feel heavy as the speed increases.

The engine is strong and reserved, intruding a little into the cabin as the speed increases.

With a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine packing 211bhp, the JCW Coupe is a bit nifty through the gears.

Torque is a factor here as the pressure from the turbo spins and it whizzes through the gears with minimal fuss but plenty of determination.

Top speed is nearly 150mph (in a MINI for heaven’s sake?) with the 0-60mph sprint taking just under 6.5 seconds.

The promise of nearly 40mpg sounds decent, as does the emission figure 165g/km – really good with the turbocharger.

Traction off the line is very good I have to say but apply a damp road and it’s all the electronic aids that come into play for you rather than a differential.

On the motorway in sixth at 70mph it’s relaxed for sure, but the short gearing adds a few decibels one has to say.

Handling is a scream. It’s very safe and secure, as one would expect from a MINI, with plenty of lateral grip and a body that doesn’t roll in the slightest, even when pushed hard which is not surprising for a minute given it rides on enormous 17in alloy wheels and low profile tyres that leave an enormous footprint. So you can be aggressive with it and it feels assured.

The brakes are strong and fade-free.

The ride is firm,it has to be said, but on smooth tarmac it connects with you like never before in a MINI.

With all the JCW bits added on, the Coupe feels naughty – like it’s provoking you to go or do that something extra so it can show you what it’s capable of.

The test car with all the extras on came in at £23,800 but add a few extras of your own and be ready to write a cheque for something closer to £30,000.

Is it value for money? In many respects yes. The opposition in the Peugeot RCZ and perhaps an Audi TT will argue I’m sure but it’s all down to the individual.

Residuals I’m sure will stack-up (particularly with the JCW bits attached) as have high-end MINI’s in the past.

It’s an infectious character, the more you drive it, the more you want to drive it.