The new Mini Countryman JCW
Controversial new sporty Mini. We don't recommend it...
Posted: 07 Sep 2012
Another new Mini?
Afraid so, and this is the most controversial (and expensive) production version yet. A John Cooper Works Countryman, with four wheel-drive and the availability of an automatic gearbox.
Sorry, did you say automatic?
Yes. Because Mini expects this car to sell well in the US and China, it needs an auto - it's the first time a JCW has come with a self-shifter.
However, we'll get the manual as standard. With it, and thanks to the updated 1.6-litre turbo'd engine producing 215bhp and 221lb ft, the Mini does the 0-62mph sprint in 7.0 seconds. Which is OK, but not exactly scorching. A front-wheel drive hot hatch, which should have poorer traction, is quicker.
Still - four-wheel drive. That should make it great fun to drive, a bit like a Subaru Impreza WRX?
Afraid not. Mini has wound this Countryman JCW back in a bit, so it's certainly not as frenetic as that icon, nor even as manic as the normal Mini hatch JCW. Which means it rides slightly better, but it does also mean that it's missing the fun factor. There's no luncacy here, which is what you expect of the JCW badge.
It's a well-balanced, grippy thing that turns in sharply, but doesn't zing and won't encourage a back-road blast.
Er, but it looks OK?
Really? Are you sure? You get a lot of extra body kit to make sure that people know you're driving a JCW version, but I wouldn't say it looks OK. The best thing is that it's no more ugly than the standard version. Talk about damning with faint praise.
So you're probably not going to recommend this?
Nope. The trouble is that at £28,595, there's a lot of seriously talented opposition out there. Granted, none of the oppo has four-wheel drive, so from that point of view Mini has crafted a new niche, but if you told us we could either have this or a Ford Focus ST, we'd be heading for Essex every single time.