A mad bodykit and hilarious supercharged performance make this a Mini to remember
Alex Robbins
2 June 2017

If ever there was a car that had a preposterously skewed moniker-to-size ratio, this is it.

You may know it as the first-generation Mini Cooper Works GP, which is somewhat less of a mouthful than its official title: the Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP Tuning Kit.

That vast nameplate comes about because the Works GP of the time was not actually a factory model, as was its successor. In fact, all of the John Cooper Works versions of this first, R53-generation ‘new’ Mini were sold as upgrade packages, which were fitted to your new Mini at dealers – and the GP was no exception. It wasn’t cheap, either. All in, the whole car cost around £22,000 back in 2006. Works GPs aren’t quite that pricey today, but neither are they cheap. You’ll be lucky to find a half-decent example for less than £10,000 while the best are around the £15,000 mark. When we looked, one ambitious chancer even had a delivery-mileage car up for £50,000.

So what do you get? For starters, a pretty lairy bodykit. You also lose the rear seats, which, combined with certain other weight-saving measures, makes the GP about 50kg lighter than the ‘standard’ Works. Tweaks to the intercooler and engine management bring power up to 215bhp, from the Works’ 208bhp, making this one of the most powerful small hot hatches of its time.

That’s more than enough to make the Works GP feel properly rorty. The shove from the supercharger is instant and useful even when you’re bimbling around town. The instant you flex your right ankle further, it yelps in anticipation of what’s to come. Keep it pinned and the yelp becomes a glorious wail, coupled with ever-increasing thrust that turns the Mini into a properly fast car. The bulky gearlever isn’t the finest thing and the change is a little obstructive, but the ratios mean you drop sweetly into the powerband for the next charge, and all too soon you’re having to ease off lest you cross the border into antisociality.

What about the corners? Well, the traction control is far too restrictive and you wonder why, because without it, the car feels fabulously grippy. The steering is sharp and fast, although the front end lacks the pointiness of a quick Renault Sport Clio. But once it has turned, the diff puts the power down beautifully, and although there’s always a slight sense of nose-heaviness, the Mini doesn’t actually slip into understeer – at least, in the dry, as we tested it. Sure, that also means it doesn’t quite have the colourful tail-happiness of something set up a little more fruitily, but the trade-off is that it feels stocky and planted at all times, giving you the confidence to press on and properly use that manic powerplant

This is a very enjoyable weekend toy, in other words. But the lack of rear seats is restricting and combines with the minimal sound-deadening to turn the interior into an echo chamber, making high-speed cruising a chore. Shame, because the cabin feels plush and well appointed. 

The first Works GP, then, really is a car best served up in small doses. With its cute interior, balls-out styling and devilish supercharged grunt, it cuts its own path. Even if you find yourself wanting for that final degree of deftness, you’ll still come away charmed.

MINI COOPER S JCW GP

Price £9000-£15,000 Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, supercharged, petrol Power 215bhp at 6250rpm Torque 184lb ft at 4600rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1195kg 0-62mph 6.5sec Top speed 150mph Economy 32.8mpg (combined) RIVALS Renault Clio 197 RS, Seat Ibiza Cupra, Vauxhall Corsa VXR

Our Verdict

Mini John Cooper Works
Mini's John Cooper Works auto is less highly strung than before but quicker than ever

Faster and more rounded than any ‘Works’ Mini before it. Still a committed prospect – to buy and to use – but rewarding to drive

Join the debate

Comments
1

2 June 2017
I sold mine recently because it was a bit too much to do 60 miles every day in. I would have liked to have kept it tucked away somewhere, as you say, taken out every now and then they are absolutely awesome. On another level of involvement compared to the current mini. Its a real little legend of a car, such character, there aren't many cars with an engine like this.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK