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Mini John Cooper Works Convertible

Road Test

Mini Convertible John Cooper Works

Driven July 2009

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If you like your hot hatches slippery rather than secure, the JCW convertible might be the most entertaining little car on sale today. Yes, the most powerful Mini cabrio ever is quick - 6.9 to 60mph is proper hot hatch pace - but it's more the way the JCW handles itself on the road... or, rather, fails to handle itself.

This is a hot cabrio from the old school: bury the throttle and feel the front wheels squirm and wriggle as 210bhp ambitiously tries - and fails - to plant itself on the road. It maintains something of a tenuous relationship with grip, the JCW, leaving you twirling the wheel with reckless abandon and feeling like a mildly camp driving hero.

It's not a scary sort of slipperiness - thank the electronic diff for that - but rather a pervading sense that you've got to keep a close eye on the JCW to keep it from chewing a hole in your sofa or making off with your shoes. The convertible is more entertaining than the hard-top because you're that much closer to the action, the bubbly exhaust snarfling behind you, hedges careering ominously into view.

Scuttle shake and wind baffling are hugely improved over the old cabrio, and, thanks to a slug of low-end turbo, the JCW does the cruising thing as well as the thrashing thing. There's just one expensive fly in the expensive ointment: at £23,470, the JCW is edging into Focus RS and 1-Series convertible territory. The £4k-cheaper Cooper S Convertible is the sensible choice, but it won't put such a smile on your face.

Sam Philip

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