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Driven: Mini goes maxi with new John Cooper Works

Hard works: Mini has chopped up to $3000 from the price of its F56 John Cooper Works Hatch when compared with the old R56 version.

Cheaper, faster, more efficient new Mini JCW now on sale, but manual delayed

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Mini logo15 Jul 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON

MINI’S performance flagship John Cooper Works hot hatch has arrived in Australian Mini garages, offering more power, better fuel efficiency and a whole lot more kit from a lower starting price than before.

As previously reported, the Mini Hatch JCW starts at $47,400 plus on-road costs when matched with the standard six-speed manual gearbox, rising to $49,950 for the six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission.

This pricing means the potent Brit is $3000 less than the old R56 version in manual guise. The auto, meanwhile, is $2800 cheaper despite offering what the company says is about $10,000 worth of standard gear over and above the $33,590 Cooper S.

However, buyers looking for a manual will have to wait a few months, with Australia’s first production allocation consisting only of autos. The manual gearbox is set to arrive from September or October this year. Mini says that previously, the manual made up 91 per cent of JCW sales.

Speaking with GoAuto at the Mini Hatch JCW launch at Phillip Island this week, Mini Australia national director Kai Bruesewitz said he anticipates the F56 to outsell its predecessor.

“Without giving away any numbers, we are pretty confident that we have a strong product here,” he said.

In Australia, JCW variants have made up an average of 2.6 per cent of overall Mini sales since 2008, while 3.6 per cent of Hatch buyers have opted for the JCW in that same period.

“This car has improved significantly, not only from a product perspective but from a price perspective, and that’s why we have high hopes and high expectations for this car.”

Mr Bruesewitz said he expected owners of the old JCW, as well as Cooper S drivers, to step up into the 2015 iteration.

“We have a good history of JCW customers, and obviously we want to try to get customers out of earlier (versions) into JCW as well. Also, it might be appealing for R56 Cooper S drivers as well, who have more of a sporty nature to then decide for the new JCW.”

Mr Bruesewitz added that Mini is keen to lure buyers of other Euro performance models into the JCW, but acknowledged that it will be a challenge.

“Obviously we are trying hard to make our product offer as competitive and attractive as possible and as such hopefully it speaks for itself, and through that way we can get … access to other brand’s customers.” The British-built pocket rocket has some fierce competitors, including other Euro hot hatches such as the larger Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance from $46,490, Renault Sport Megane RS265 Cup from $43,990, and the Holden Astra VXR from $39,990 (all prices are before on-road costs).

Similarly sized and more affordable mainstream options include the $25,990 Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI starting at $27,490 as well as the spicy Abarth 595 Competizione at $37,000.

Under the snub nose of the latest JCW is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder TwinPower turbocharged unit, pumping out 170kW between 5200-6000rpm and 320Nm from 1250 to 4800rpm.

This is an uprated version of the 141kW/280Nm unit in the Mini Hatch Cooper S, but the turbocharger has been specifically designed for the JCW.

The BMW Group-owned brand says it produces 10 per cent more power and 23 per cent more torque than its predecessor, making it the most powerful engine ever fitted to a production Mini.

This is enough to propel the three-door from zero to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds in manual guise, or 6.1s with the auto, and onto a top speed of 246km/h. This is a 0.2 and 0.6-second improvement over the previous manual and auto respectively.

While they are a full size larger, the iconic VW Golf GTI in Performance guise offers up 169kW/350Nm for a 0-100km/h dash of 6.4 seconds, while the 194kW/360Nm Renault Sport Megane Cup covers the same distance in 6.0s.

Official combined fuel consumption is rated at 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres in the manual (5.7L/100km in the auto), and the Euro 6-compliant engine emits 155g/km of CO2, or 133g for the auto. These figures represent a 20 per cent improvement over the previous JCW.

The JCW’s suspension system consists of a MacPherson strut arrangement up front with aluminium hub carriers, while the rear is a multi-link axle with trailing arms, all of which have been engineered to reduce weight. Multiple-mode Dynamic Damper Control is standard.

Steering is electrically assisted with the Servotronic function, while the Mini rides on 18-inch two-tone JCW Cup light alloy wheels. A new Brembo sports braking system with four-piston front calipers is also fitted.

Some of the standard fare includes John Cooper Works sports seats and steering wheel, ‘professional’ satellite navigation linked to an 8.8-inch split-screen colour monitor and a touchpad, extended Bluetooth functionality and a DAB+ digital radio.

It also gains a head-up display with JCW-specific content, a reversing camera, Park Assist with front and rear parking sensors, six airbags, stainless steel pedals, LED headlights and daytime running lights and Mini’s Driving Modes that includes Mid, Sport and Green modes for comfort, performance-focused or efficient driving.

The Mini Excitement Package is also standard and includes an LED light ring around the instrument cluster as well as ambient interior lighting with changeable colours.

The body kit includes a rear spoiler, side sills, a rear apron with a diffuser, front brake and engine air intakes and special tailpipes located in the middle of the diffuser.

Like all Minis, the three-door JCW is offered with the Condition Based Service scheme, which can identify the actual condition of the vehicle based on use.

This is calculated via feedback from a number of sensors and algorithms looking at fuel economy, time since the last service and other factors which help determine maintenance requirements.

Mini’s TLC pre-paid servicing program is also available, and starts at $980 for the Basic package which covers the first five years or 70,000km, whichever comes first.

This is the second true JCW variant of the modern-day Mini, with the first iteration offered as a lightweight kit and limited to a production run of 2000 units.

2015 Mini Hatch John Cooper Works pricing*
ModelPrice
JCW$47,400
JCW (a)$49,950
*Excludes on-road costs

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