In the bragging-rights sprint from a standstill to 62mph, the manual JCW is 0.2sec slower than the automatic version, which benefits from shorter first and second gear ratios and a launch control system that you don’t get if you want to change the cogs yourself.
Ignore the on-paper numbers, though; in real-world driving the manual JCW doesn’t feel like it wants for acceleration. It is as quick as most drivers will desire in most driving conditions, and when you add manual gear-changing to the deep-throated engine tone, rally-style exhaust crackles and fast-gathering pace, it's a more immersive experience than the auto.
At cruising speeds, however, you don’t necessarily have to work the gears particularly hard, because the impressive engine is bursting with mid-range punch.
The new Mini is in its element through flowing corners, where it feels fairly composed and easily adjustable, and can be propelled through and out of corners with far more poise than previous iterations.
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.