For in vogue speedy transport to the surf and sand this summer, the updated Mini John Cooper Works Convertible takes some beating.
Sure the Mini was conceived in Germany and made in England, but with the top down, turbocharged 2.0-litre engine humming Ariana Grande, Justice Crew, or Sheppard on the radio and cicadas buzzing in the trees... Well that’s the Aussie summer combo right there.
Vehicle Style: Premium Compact Convertible
Price: $54,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 170kW/320Nm 2.0 litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.8l/100kms | Tested: 8.6l/100kms
JCW stands for John Cooper Works and this is the ultimate high-performance specification Mini.
So we’re talking the racy 170kW/320Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, Brembo brakes, adjustable dampers, 18-inch alloy wheels, some styling changes, and extra kit inside.
Our test car drove via a six-speed automatic transmission but tick the options box and you can grab a six-speed manual.
The JCW Convertible model picks-up the styling changes included in the latest range-wide Mini update plus pyrotechnic-operated roll bars behind the seats for protection in an inversion.
And ‘our’ car even had a tone-on-tone Union Jack treatment for the black folding roof which is... very... erm... British?
At $54,900 there are only three Mini models (slightly) more expensive than the JCW Convertible but considering the levels of equipment it actually shops very well against European rivals.
- Standard Features: Cloth/leather sports seats, head-up display, steel sports pedals, three-spoke JCW perforated leather sports steering wheel, carbon black interior with Black Chequered highlights, LED lighting
- Infotainment: 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio with Bluetooth and USB connections, 8.8-inch colour screen, satellite navigation Professional with 3D maps and 20Gb hard drive
- Cargo Capacity: 160-litres (roof open), 215-litres (roof closed)
You’ll feel encouraged about your $60K outlay on the Mini JCW Convertible when you open the doors as the unique Mini look which harks back to the 1960s, such as the leather/cloth seats in two-tone colour, look and feel terrific and the presentation of tactile items like the steering wheel, gear-lever and hallmark toggle switches is top-notch.
In that context, that there's no electronic seat adjustment is a perplexing exclusion. However the manual adjustment for all elements plus under-thigh support and plenty of rake/reach variance for the delightful three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel provide a great driving environment.
The JCW version scores Mini’s 8.8-inch colour screen in the signature round binnacle centre dashboard as well as a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. BMW’s navigation system ‘Professional’ is one of the best of the current generation with good map quality and quick loading of addresses.
Without co-operation from those up-front there is little leg-room for rear seat passengers who also miss-out on their own air-vents.
Out-back, the latest version of the Mini Convertible has pleasingly scored some extra cargo space - 215-litres with the roof closed, which is enough for most weekly grocery shops or couples-weekend-away luggage.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 170kW/320Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel discs, ventilated front rotors, solid rear rotors
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering
Extracting an extra 29kW and 40Nm over the engine fitted to the Mini Cooper S is the work of unique pistons, an upgraded exhaust system and revised turbocharger. On the flipside, the Mini JCW Convertible automatic as tested weighs-in at 1395kgs – 175kgs more than the JCW three-door hatchback.
Notwithstanding, the turbo 2.0-litre and quick-shifting six-speeder provided plenty of punch with lots of grunt throughout the rev range. Use of the paddle-shifters for manual gear-shifts brought even more pleasing response. A swap to the ‘Green’ drive mode brought barely discernible changes to engine performance or exhaust note.
Although you're immediately aware of the convertible nature of the car when in traffic, mechanical and wind noise in the Mini JCW Convertible were noticeably hushed and the 18-inch Pirelli tyres were also relatively quiet (except on poorly surfaced roads).
Over the mountains in ‘Sport’ mode, the Mini JCW Convertible was a treat. Tighten-up the dampers and the ride gets noticeably firmer but so too does the liveliness of the rear end on turn-in - a decided attribute for front-wheel-drive cars.
As always with Mini, the steering is direct and responsive to even slight movements of the steering wheel and those Pirellis certainly deliver very high grip levels.
Body control has historically been a ‘thumbs-down’ with convertible cars but pleasingly the Mini JCW - like most of the current crop of Europeans to be honest - has conquered the issue with just a few squeaks from the corners of the roof structure when turning-in at high-speed on bumpy roads.
ANCAP Rating: The Mini Convertible range has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety Features: ABS anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist and Cornering Brake Control, dynamic traction and stability control, six airbags, rollover protection system
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Mini uses condition-based servicing to monitor vehicle vitals and suggest when a service is due via the trip computer. Mini Service Inclusive allows owners to pre-pay for five years or 80,000km of servicing starting from $1240, although conditions apply - see you local dealer for more information.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Audi A3 Cabriolet is the most direct opposition for the Mini JCW. While the 2.0 TFSI Sport doesn’t have the go-fast stuff included in the JCW package and the 140kW/320Nm turbocharged 2.0 litre powerplant is considerably outpunched, it does have the usual gorgeous Audi interior and can be paired with optional all wheel drive.
The BMW 220i Convertible (135kW/270Nm) is also down on grunt and more expensive at $58,300. But it drives through the rear for nice dynamics... albeit not in the sporty sense of the Mini JCW.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Mini JCW Convertible is the essence of summer; fun, fast and stylish. However, it can easily be enjoyed all throughout the year.
Of course when the roads get twisty, the ripping JCW model also loads-up massive doses of high-performance driving enjoyment.
Mind you, for around $60K on-road, your expectations are entitled to be at the upper-end of the spectrum and the MINI JCW Convertible won’t disappoint.
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