MINI JCW Countryman

7 Sep, 2012 11:00pm Jack Rix

It’s the first-ever four-wheel-drive MINI JCW, but can it transfer its rally roots to the road?

Verdict

4
The MINI John Cooper Works family is all about extreme performance, and the new JCW Countryman is the maddest of them all. It’s not the fastest, but the brash styling and rally-inspired exhaust note are strictly for extroverts. When you’re on the right road, the four-wheel drive helps it grip hard, plus it’s fast and huge amounts of fun to drive. However, the rock-hard suspension and £30,000 price tag limit its appeal.

With a Countryman in the World Rally Championship, it was only a matter of time before MINI cashed in by producing a hot John Cooper Works version.

On paper, the car’s credentials are promising. With 215bhp, it’s the most powerful model ever to wear the JCW badge – eclipsing the hatchback, Convertible, Clubman, Coupe and Roadster JCWs by 7bhp. It’s also the first to feature four-wheel drive and a five-door layout.

A deeper bodykit, with a trademark vent in the side sills, plus new 18-inch alloys and a few JCW badges mark it out, but it’s no looker. There are seven colours, while the roof, mirrors and stripes are white, black or – exclusive to the JCW – red.

The interior is a bombardment of colour, thanks to optional Chili Red trim strips and red stitching on the gearlever and steering wheel. There’s the same space as in any Countryman – so it’s big for a MINI, but it’s no large family car. The 350-litre boot, which expands to 1,170 litres with the rear seats folded, trails the new VW Golf by 30 litres.

But this car’s focus is on performance, not practicality, which is why the 1.6-litre turbo from the Cooper S is tuned to 215bhp. Whether you go for the six-speed manual or six-speed auto, it covers 0-62mph in seven seconds and hits 140mph.

That’s quick by any normal standards, but the acceleration feels brisk rather than ballistic – blame its extra 190kg over the JCW hatch for that. What hasn’t been diluted is the burbling exhaust, which lets out a flurry of small explosions on the overrun.

The stand-out difference between this and any other JCW model is the effect four-wheel drive has on the handling. In normal situations, MINI’s All4 system splits power evenly between the front and rear axles, but has the ability to send up to 100 per cent of the torque to either end in extreme situations.

The upshot is that the torque steer from the rest of the range is eradicated, which lets you apply smoother steering inputs, even on the limit. There’s also more traction, as all four wheels claw at the tarmac, but carry too much speed into a corner and you’ll wash wide with understeer.

Suspension lowered by 10mm, along with firmer springs and dampers, keeps the high-sided Countryman from rolling around in corners, while it takes sharp changes of direction in its stride.

Yet it does crash over every bump in the road, which leaves us thinking a Countryman with the JCW’s styling and engine, but the Cooper S version’s suspension, would have a far broader appeal.

Disqus - noscript

BMW lost no time in pulling the plug on the works team version of this vehicle in the WRC when it proved an "also ran" against both Citroen and Ford. Presumably a case of ugly is as ugly does.

Smile, they said, it could be worse. So I did smile, and it got even uglier and more inept in its design and detail. £29000 ?? absolutely hilarious.

That Mini looks like the car equivelent of Dame Edna !

Here, here, here........for the 3 comments so far posted. I'm shame-faced thinking where the oh so ugly dame comes from. Not gay, not a cross-dresser, but a bloke in a frock. He/she/it gives gays a rotten name.
So what's new on this shining star from the ugly haus of bmw?? Well the ugly grille to start. If ever cars had faces, this with its turned down mouth at each corner, is a sadsack of the worst order. Then, to completely hobble the car, they went and slung nearly 200kgs of dead weight into it. But what would you expect from the world's leading brick maker. 200bhp is passe, and the 0-60 is just ordinary. Then in true gouging bmw style, there is an obscene price ticket on this car, as noted by 'dgh'. As my darling Yorkshire Mum would say, a fool and his money can always be parted.........

Key specs

  • Price: £28,595
  • Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbo
  • Power/torque: 215bhp/300Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph/Top speed: 7.0 secs/140mph
  • Economy: 38.2mpg
  • CO2: 172g/km
  • Equipment: Sports exhaust, 18-inch alloys, split-folding rear seats, body kit, air-con
  • On sale: November
AEX 1330
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