Indeed, this Mini feels like an all-round more grown-up driving proposition. The old car was also notable for crashing and juddering that marred its ride, but this one manages manages to marry sporting zeal with greater composure, assisted by the uprated springs and anti-roll bars. That’s even on the optional 18in rims on which our test car rode, rather than the standard 17in wheels, although the bigger rims and run-flat tyres generated a fair degree of road noise.
The cabin is traditional Mini fare, adorned with interior lights and material finishes that collectively shimmer and sparkle like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
The John Cooper Works sports a number of model-specific touches such as sill decoration, supportive sports front seats with integrated headrests, a three-spoke multi-function steering wheel, a special gearlever, stainless steel pedals and revised instrument graphics.
For what it's worth (given that this is a model designed for spirited driving rather than economy runs), the manual sips more petrol, returning a claimed 42.2mpg on the combined cycle versus the automatic’s 49.7mpg, and emits more CO2.
Should I buy one?
Unless you have a particular affinity for pulling on steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters or letting the drivetrain take the strain, sticking with the standard manual gearbox means you get a more engaging driving experience for more than £1000 less than the auto. So in that respect it is a no-brainer.
Overall, this latest fast Mini is a touch less of a hyperactive terrier than the old one, and to our mind it is all the better for it, too, because it gives the car a broader appeal.
You’ll have to tiptoe through the options list, though; our test car came adorned with extras that pushed the on-the-road price north of £30,000 – broadly into the territory occupied by some incredibly potent driver’s cars such as the Volkswagen Golf R and upcoming Mk3 Ford Focus RS.
Mini John Cooper Works manual
Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £23,050; Engine 4 cyls, 1998cc, turbo, petrol; Power 228bhp at 5200-6000rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 1250-4800rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1280kg; Top speed 153mph; 0-62mph 6.3sec; Economy 42.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 155g/km, 26%