2016 Mini JCW convertible

By NRMA Motoring on 13 December 2016
2016 Mini JCW convertible

Engine
Transmission
Fuel Economy
16.4 L/ 100km
Output
ANCAP rating

Not Tested

Ever since BMW took over Mini and decided to capitalise the brand name (for reasons that only made sense to the BMW marketing department), there's been a feeling one of the all-time great marques has lost its soul. Too big, too heavy, too fancy, too high-tech, the purists have opined – and in many cases, they've been right. Having spent a fair amount of time in and around classic Minis, my impression of the modern kind was, "I'm in an over-styled BMW." I mean, is a five-door Mini really a Mini?

So the prospect of driving a $54,900 John Cooper Works Mini, with added styling options, didn't set my heart aflutter. Not even knowing it was a convertible helped much.

Before we get to my impression of it, however, let's discuss those options. The JCW comes standard with the Chili and Multimedia Pro equipment packages, which together if bought as options total about $9000. The Chili package includes diamond cloth and leather sports seats, special 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, sat nav and driving modes. Multimedia Pro adds an 8.8-inch infotainment screen with hard drive and voice recognition, 12-speaker sound system, head-up display and digital radio. It also has the JCW package, which encompasses sports suspension, colour-coded side sills, chequers on the interior surface, JCW door sill finishes and stainless steel pedals.

Beyond that, the options list goes on for pages; our test vehicle had about $7000 worth, including a Union Jack embroidered soft top ($900), bonnet stripes ($200), special leather upholstery ($1950), heated seats ($490), and quite a bit besides, for a total list price of $61,790 plus on road costs. 

But while you can pretty it up to your heart's content, this is no hairdresser's car. Under the bonnet dwells a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine stoked to produce 170kW/320Nm and it can get the JCW to 100km/h in 6.5 seconds.

Drivery types will most likely opt for the manual gearbox, but the six-speed auto is a peach – I never thought much about it, which is always the hallmark of a good cog-shifter, and when I did use the paddles for the sake of this review the changes were more than fast enough. Such is not always guaranteed with Mini; the 'box on its above mentioned five-door is an absolute dog.

Although the JCW is front-wheel drive, Mini has done such an admirable job of eliminating traction loss and torque steer that you would scarcely know it. It doesn't have never-ending grip like a small AWD car, but when you pass the limits of adhesion it is remarkably easy to control and get it where you want it to go. The centre of gravity is almost subterranean and strengthening beams mean it stays in shape during rapid steering inputs.

And about that steering... In comfort mode it is reassuringly responsive without being too heavy. But flick it into sport or sport+ mode using the (slightly silly) dial at the bottom of the gear shifter and it does, as the infotainment screen claims, offer "maximum go-kart feel". In lesser Minis, such direct and linear steering seems overcooked, but with the added oomph of the engine and the chassis and suspension setup, the JCW becomes the very distillation of fun. The only car I can remember enjoying so much was an Audi TT roadster, and it was nearly $20,000 more expensive (even with all the options on our test car).

The sound engineers have got the JCW's acoustics just right, too. On some smaller-engined sports cars the exhaust note sounds ludicrous – Mercedes, we're looking at you – but the JCW has a rorty note under throttle and there's just enough crackle and pop on the overrun to make it lairy yet believable. The engine isn't thirsty, either, with a claimed consumption of just 6.2L/100km.

Mini's rather unique approach to a dashboard can take some getting used to – on about the twelfth occasion I remembered the starter button was in the row of switches near the centre console – but it's not illogical per se and suits the car's personality.

The boot is bigger than the one you get in an Audi TT or Mazda MX-5, too, and with a small amount of swearing it's possible to fit a child restraint in the back seat. So while the JCW is no one's idea of a practical car, in convertible terms, it's actually pretty good.

Should I buy one?

Indeed. More luxe than the Mazda MX-5 but with a more sensible price tag than the Audi TT and its prestige peers (especially if you go easy on the options), the JCW Mini hits a convertible sweet spot.

 
Quick Facts
MakeMini
ModelJohn Cooper Works convertible
CategorySmall
Body typeConvertible
Pros

Tremendous fun to drive
Looks great
Practical for a convertible

Cons

Not cheap for a weekend car
Options quickly inflate the price

Available from13-Dec-16
Priced from$54,990

Specifications

Engine
Number of cylinders4
Engine size2.0 L
Claimed max power (kW)170 kW @ 5200-6000 rpm
Claimed max torque (Nm)320 Nm @ 1250-4800 rpm

Transmission
Type6-speed automatic

Fuel Consumption
Claimed fuel consumption6.2 L/100km
CO2 Emissions152 g/km

Looking to buy a new car?

Turn your dream vehicle a reality with NRMA car loans