What is it?:
Mini has upgraded its ‘N18’ 1.6-litre turbo engine in John Cooper Works tune, fitting the revised powerplant to this, the standard Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works hatch, as well as the new JCW Countryman and Mini GP models. Every ‘Works’ car now gets the same engine, but the ECU mapping is slightly different for the GP and Countryman, giving them a touch more power.
Rather unspectacularly, the changes wrought have not given the Mini JCW hatch any more power or torque: they remain the same at 208bhp and 192lb ft, with an additional 15lb ft on temporary overboost. However, Mini claims improved throttle response as well as lower fuel consumption and emissions.
The key areas of modification are to the pistons, which have redesigned crowns and new rings; an increase in diameter for the turbo feed pipe; a slightly larger air intake; a redesigned drive belt configuration and a modified dual mass flywheel.
Various materials within the engine, such as the head gasket, have been optimised. The new engine has a combined fuel figure of 42.8mpg versus 38.7mpg of old, and CO2 emissions fall to 153g/km from 169g/km.
What's it like?:
To drive, the modifications are harder to pinpoint. In the process of this latest round of selective honing, the ‘Works’ engine seems to have taken on a coarser note to the induction roar filtering through the bulkhead, which can become wearing after a time.
If the throttle response is improved, then it’s hard to tell and would probably require a back-to-back drive with the old car to pinpoint it exactly. That said, one of the key strengths of this turbo engine has always been the way it responds so instantaneously to the driver’s command, and that continues.
So the John Cooper Works engine remains an effective if slightly soulless device to control. The 0-62mph time of 6.5sec proves that it lacks for nothing in terms of outright pace, and its burgeoning shove from low revs would make mincemeat of an outgoing Clio Renaultsport caught ‘off cam’.
But given the regular Cooper S does much of that already, it’s a shame there aren’t more fireworks from this Works state of tune, disregarding the constant pops and bangs it releases from the exhaust on the overrun.
Should I buy one?:
The JCW hatch has its own appeal, with nearly 450 in hatchback guise alone finding homes in the UK last year.
It’s certainly not cheap, some of the standard kit omissions are mean, and by the time most buyers have specced them to their preference the price is an eye widener.
However, it takes the core competencies of the Mini and remixes them into a furious, exciting, wheel-scrabbling experience full of sharp steering inputs and jolts from the firm ride. Business as usual, then.
Mini John Cooper Works
Price £22,455; 0-62mph 6.5sec; Top speed 148mph; Economy 42.8mpg; CO2 153g/km; Kerb weight 1,160kg; Engine 4 cyls inline, turbocharged, 1,598cc; Power 208bhp at 6,000rpm; Torque 207lb ft at 2,000-5,100rpm with overboost; Gearbox 6-spd manual