The Mini Countryman John Cooper Works is a niche proposition that fills a gap in the market that wasn’t really there
Not a week goes by without another manufacturer claiming it has invented a new market sector – with varying degrees of credibility, we might add. Mini is certainly no stranger to such marketing antics, with oddball machines such as the late Paceman and bread-van aping Clubman seemingly having no direct rivals.
And yet, here we are with another niche proposition from the BMW-owned brand: the Mini Countryman JCW (or John Cooper Works). As a self-defined ‘hot crossover’, this range-topping model is effectively in a class of its own. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to come in for an easy time.
Mini's second-generation Countryman SUV JCW has to take on more powerful versions of the Audi Q2 and Seat Ateca . And thanks to a £32,275 price tag, it also has to be a match for more dynamically focused and equally practical hot estates, such as the Volkswagen Golf R Estate and Leon Cupra 300 ST 4 Drive.
On the latter point, it looks like the Clubman JCW has the necessary firepower to make an impact. The standard Cooper S’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder has been uprated with a new turbocharger and additional intercooler - the net result being 228bhp, 258lb ft of torque and a 0-62mph time of 6.5sec. That’s 0.8sec faster than the next-hottest Countryman, and the time should be repeatable too, thanks to standard fit launch control and Mini’s All4 four-wheel drive.
Naturally, to support this extra performance, the Countryman’s handling has been improved. Firmer JCW Sport suspension featuring adaptive damper control promises flatter cornering, Brembo brakes with four-piston calipers should help with reducing brake fade and the eight-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox has been tweaked for faster shifts.
What's the 2017 Mini Countryman JCW like to drive?
Even though this is the largest JCW Mini yet, plenty of effort has been made to ensure that it shares the same ‘go-kart feel’ of its smaller siblings. Its heavy steering and darty front is immediately obvious, making the car feel smaller than its lengthy dimensions would let on. However, there is very little feedback through the rim and the smallest of steering inputs can have the car darting into bends in a hyperactive manner.
This immediacy and the car’s inability to settle would feel appropriate if the car somehow awoke in the bends, but sadly any expectations of hot hatch-esque playfulness are quickly quashed. Through faster corners, the top-heavy crossover is quick to run front at its front wheels, and, in the dry at least, it feels predominately front-wheel drive. While most prospective Mini owners may appreciate this effective safety blanket, we would argue a JCW should provide a more engaging and tactile driving experience than more traditionally straight-laced competitors.
Mini Countryman John Cooper Works
Engine size 2.0-litre Petrol
Torque 258lb ft
Top speed 145mph
Gov't economy (official combined) 38.1mpg
CO2/BIK band 169g/km/32%