The Mini John Cooper Works GP is the most hardcore MINI you can buy, a fire-breathing, semi-stripped out hot hatch that can take its fight to the very best that RenaultSport or VW has to offer. We’ve seen a car like the new MINI John Cooper Works GP before though, the first generation arrived in 2006 and took the market by storm, resulting in a limited edition model that still commands desire today. The latest model carries much of that car’s legacy forward, including the distinctive four-spoke alloy wheels and absence of rear seats. However there’s an all-new chassis, adjustable coilovers and the latest 215bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre engine under the bonnet.
The Mini John Cooper Works GP is not a car for shrinking violets – the grey paint might be subtle but it’s adorned with some stand-out GP stickers and attention-seeking red detailing. The wing mirrors, air intakes in the lower bumper and the hood scoop all get the crimson crayon, there’s extra negative camber on the front wheels, thanks to the coilover suspension, and the carbon fibre-reinforced rear wing and MINI-challenge race series inspired diffuser help reduce lift at the rear by 90 per cent.
The Mini JCW GP wouldn’t know what practicality was if it jumped up and bit it on the a-pillar. For a start the rear seats have gone, replaced with a bar that, in theory, stops luggage sliding forward into the the back of your neck under braking. It’s purely cosmetic, though, as it allow smaller bags to slide around anyway. Up front the Recaro seats offer loads of adjustment and prove particularly comfortable, but we’d wager they’re not as supportive as the more hardcore models found in certain RenaultSport or Ford products.
Performance & handling
The Mini JCW GP is fast and fun. Save for a ride that borders on race-track firm, this is without doubt the most exciting MINI we’ve ever driven. Credit for this goes to the turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, whose ECU tweaks add another 7bhp to the standard car’s 208bhp. There’s little in the way of turbo lag, the powerplant fizzing away beneath you and the exhaust popping and banging on the overrun – an addictive soundtrack.
Chassis tweaks make a difference too, the extra negative camber at the front making for incredibly sharp turn in, while the lower ride height from the adjustable coilovers improve overall grip. In GP mode the stability control system removes any reduction of power or torque when detecting slip, though the electronic front differential (braking individual front wheels) remains active The result is a lively hot hatch, that will happily trim its cornering attitude with modulation of the throttle.
Economy & environment
The Mini JCW GP was never set up to save the environment – reducing lap times, not CO2 emissions is more its bag. That’s not to say the MINI GP isn’t at least competitive; through parent firm BMW’s Efficient dynamic techniques the JCW GP returns 39.8mpg on the combined cycle and emits only 165g/km of CO2. Compare that with the 34.4mpg and 190g/km of the current (though soon to be replaced) Renaultsport Clio or 34.9mpg and 189g/km of the Volkswagen Scirocco R and you’ll see the MINI does rather well on this front.
Equipment & value
There’s only one specification for the MINI JCW GP, so if you want to apply any of MINI’s famed customisation processes to the hot hatch you’ll have to start with a standard JCW instead. Still, for your money you get plenty of bespoke GP parts including the spoiler, suspension, diffuser, alloy wheels, six-piston brakes, Kumho Ecsta tyres, front strut brace and plenty of GP badging. Inside the car benefits from climate control, Bluetooth, DAB radio and heated seats. As one of 4,000 available worldwide, you’ll also likely benefit from some excellent residuals. Whether its £28,790 list price seems like good value will clearly be very much down to the depths of your individual pockets.
Last tested in 2007 the current generation MINI hatch scored acceptably on the EuroNCAP front, gaining five stars for adult protection – children faired less well with only three out of five stars awarded. Still, there’s six airbags, those upgraded brakes as well as Automatic Stability Control, Electronic Differential Lock Control, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Cornering Brake control to keep things in check.
Some would argue that the standard JCW hatchback is a better place to spend your money, citing this car’s £6,335 premium as a step too far. However, to do so would be to miss the point entirely – the GP is a limited edition statement, showcasing just what the talented engineers at MINI can do when let off the leash. Full of bespoke and specialised parts, it soon becomes easy to justify that extra cash, as from behind the wheel there’s no other current MINI product producing such a wide grin. With exclusivity, performance, handling, low running costs and distinctive design on its side we wouldn’t give the regular JCW a second look.
Model tested: MINI John Cooper Works GP
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Acceleration: 0-62 in 6.3 seconds
Top speed: 150mph
Emissions: 165g/km CO2