It goes without saying that when it comes to MINI, the brand definitely aims to sell its cars mainly on the basis of style and quality. And here we have the ultimate MINI, the JCW Countryman with loads of chic to spare. But once you step inside the MINI JCW Countryman and drive it around some, it quickly reveals itself to be quite a practical little number. The John Cooper Works treatment certainly adds a sportier performance to the car, but it does so without getting in the way of the plain Countryman inside this JCW edition.
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For the two weeks I spent with the car, I always looked forward to simply climbing inside of it, with its nightclub-feel interior. People approached me and complimented me on the car, even asking me questions about it – like how much it cost. They were interested. The car was like a mobile advertisement for itself. It definitely works on looks alone.
But there’s a lot more to it than that. The main element of the JCW tuning here is the 1.6 liter twin-scroll turbo four-cylinder engine which produces 160 kW / 218 PS and 280 Nm of torque (300 Nm with the over-boost function). Power which makes itself felt even in this heavy Countryman which weighs in at 1,400 kg. There’s always plenty of juice on tap for just about anything and the engine never feels like it’s a propped-up 1.6 liter. Sure, you hear the turbo at work (BMW’s 2.0 liter twin-scroll turbo is a little smoother and quieter) but it’s certainly not bothersome and you know that it is there to deliver the fun.
Fuel-economy came in a little high at 11.1 liters/100 km but that was mostly in city driving and with a heavy foot outside of town to test the sporting mettle of the JCW. The JCW Countryman’s official figure is 7.9 liters/100 km on the mixed Swiss cycle. Still, those numbers are not bad for an all-wheel drive sport model where fuel economy is not going to be its biggest priority. But the JCW Countryman could do with some of BMW’s Efficient Dynamics tech to get that figure down somewhat.
Riding on 19-inch rims and with a suspension tightened and lowered by 10 mm all combine to provide a very sporty ride such as a car wearing the JCW badges should have. Bumpy city streets aren’t the easiest to drive on, though, with this harder set-up but take the car on the slalom roads of the Alps and you feel the handling that comes from that ride configuration. And the grip from the All4 traction makes itself felt too. The suspension is well-tuned to that kind of traction-oriented driving.
The six-speed automatic comes with a sport mode that matches well the full potential of this engine but I suspect a manual would make things more interesting for the driver and help lower that fuel-economy figure. But the fun-factor here is key – driving in the summer, taking this car to the beach, was pure joy, and I can only imagine how this MINI can delivery the thrills during winter excursions, particularly in a place like Switzerland.
Inside, this MINI is big enough to offer very comfortable room for rear passengers and the cabin, with its smooth leather finish and sultry LED lighting, provides a certain ambiance that’s unmistakeably MINI luxury. The trunk was large enough for several bags of beach gear and a couple of folding chairs. Yes, we took this car to the beach quite a bit and if there’s a closed-top car that is a perfect match for that kind of outing, this one is it.
My sister asks an indiscreet question.
“Is this a chick car?”
Well, most of the people who approached me to ask about it were men. And the car even works for a family with small kids – provided they can do with the limited trunk space. The John Cooper Works detailing distinguishes this Countryman too, particularly with the aerodynamic kit, to make it quite a unique and, dare I say, masculine MINI.
- A practical, muscular MINI
- A good buy for all seasons
- Where’s the JCW diesel?