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Mini 2021 review: John Cooper Works GP

Only 67 examples of the Mini JCW GP are available in Australia, all of which are now spoken for.
EXPERT RATING
8.3
Mini’s John Cooper Works badge has long denoted the pinnacle of performance for the diminutive-in-size brand, with the limited-run GP version billed as the best of the best. Stripping away the rear seats and upping performance is a sure-fire recipe to boost performance, but does that make the car better?

Mini is only building 3000 examples of the JCW GP for worldwide consumption, with just 67 of them making their way Down Under, but if you want to buy one, unfortunately we’ve got a bit of bad news for you… they're all spoken for.

In fact, so exclusive is the JCW GP that you won’t even find any mention of it on Mini Australia’s website.

And what exactly makes the JCW GP so special? Well, the GP badge has adorned each generation of Mini hatchback in the BMW-owned era, and denotes the pinnacle of performance for the brand.

This new JCW GP is easily distinguished from the standard JCW thanks to a bespoke bodykit that with extended fenders and a massive wing, but its not all show as the 2.0-litre engine also gets a bump in output.

Just looking at the JCW GP though you have to wonder who Mini has built this car for.

On the one hand, the extra potent engine, lack of rear seats and rock-hard ride mean it would be great as a track-day toy, but the inclusion of satellite navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay and air-conditioning mean it could also serve duty as a head-turning daily.

So has Mini made the latest JCW GP for the social media influencer, or is this hot hatch truly built for the driver?

Mini 3D Hatch 2021: John Cooper Works Classic
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.9L/100km
Seating4 seats
Price from$57,900

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

Wearing a price of $63,900, before on-road costs, the Mini JCW GP is the most expensive variant ‘available’ in the three-door hatchback range.

We say ‘available’ only because you can’t actually go out to a dealership to buy one as only 67 examples have been earmarked for Australia, all of which have been snapped up by keen fans.

Customers will be able to get their hands on the standard Mini JCW three-door hatchback though, which is priced from $57,900, though there are more than a few key differences.

The JCW GP is available in one colour, ‘Racing Grey Metallic’ . The JCW GP is available in one colour, ‘Racing Grey Metallic’ .

For starters, the JCW GP ditches the rear seats in favour of a strut brace and more boot space, while the engine tune has also been turned up to 225kW/450Nm from 170kW/320Nm (more on that below).

An eye-catching bodykit is also added to the JCW GP, including fender extensions and a racy rear wing that would make even the Subaru WRX STI blush.

The rear wing adds downforce and exaggerates the sporty bits. The rear wing adds downforce and exaggerates the sporty bits.

Stepping inside the cabin, buyers will notice a familiar 8.8-inch multimedia touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay, 5.0-inch digital instrumentation display, wireless smartphone charger and sports seats, but the JCW GP also scores a set of 3D-printed paddle shifters and dashboard insert.

However, being a hardcore special-edition variant means most of the money spent on the car will be on making it drive better on a track, which is absolutely the case for the JCW GP.

These include a mechanical limited-slip differential on the front axle, a new exhaust system, larger brakes, unique 18-inch wheels shod in sticky rubber and a bespoke suspension tune that sees the height dropped by 10mm.

The JCW GP wears unique 18-inch alloy wheels. The JCW GP wears unique 18-inch alloy wheels.

Run your eye across the spec sheet and you will notice some omissions you’d expect on a near-$64,000 car like overhead grab handles, a head-up display and a reversing camera, but the JCW GP isn’t really like many other vehicles that are designed to appeal to the widest audience possible.

Mini has made the JCW GP an ultra-rare collectible track toy, so some omissions on the spec sheet are understandable, but we would have liked to see at least some things (like a reversing camera) still included.

As a track-focused model though, the Mini JCW GP could be comparable to the Porsche 911 GT3 RS or Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro, only its actually affordable to the masses… if there were any still available.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   10/10

In person, there is no doubting the Mini JCW GP is an eye-catching model thanks to the wild bodykit attached to the diminutive – and dare we say, cute – three-door hatchback.

If the fender extensions weren’t enough to turn your head, the exposed carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic finish is certain to make you do a double take.

Mini says the added girth is functional, “ducting air cleanly away from the sides of the car”, but on closer inspection they are designed much more for show than go.

In the flesh this Mini is an absolutely wild sight to behold. In the flesh this Mini is an absolutely wild sight to behold.

They do add a little more room for the thicker 18-inch wheels, though, and when coupled with the enormous rear wing (that does add downforce), the JCW GP looks like someone took Ant-Man’s size-altering technology and enlarged a Hot Wheels car to full size – and we totally dig it.

Only one exterior colour is available – ‘Racing Grey Metallic’ – which comes with contrasting ‘Chilli Red’ accents on the front bumper air intake, sides and rear wing to exaggerate the sporty bits even more, while piano black colouring is applied to the bonnet scoop, badging, grille, door handles, and head- and tail-light surrounds.

The JCW GP looks a full size Hot Wheels car. The JCW GP looks a full size Hot Wheels car.

Top-spec, track-focused specials like the JCW GP should look as over-the-top and aggressive as possible, and in the flesh this Mini is an absolutely wild sight to behold.

We also appreciate that some Mini quirks have carried over to the JCW GP, such as the split-Union Jack tail-lights and clamshell bonnet.

Inside the JCW GP looks nearly identical to the JCW donor car, but eagle-eyed drivers should spot the GP-branded paddle shifters and unique 12 o’clock marker on the steering wheel – both of which have been 3D printed.

Inside is a 8.8-inch multimedia touchscreen and 5.0-inch digital instrumentation display. Inside is a 8.8-inch multimedia touchscreen and 5.0-inch digital instrumentation display.

Part of the dashboard has also been 3D printed, but the most noticeable interior change might be a set of sports bucket seats finished in Alcantara and leather.

As mentioned above, the rear seats have been ditched in a bid to save weight, which makes room for a cross brace that is finished in ‘Chilli Red’ – a colour matched by the seatbelts and interior stitching.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

Measuring 3879mm long, 1762mm wide, 1420mm tall and with a 2495mm wheelbase, the Mini JCW GP certainly keeps to its namesake in size.

Though a standard three-door Mini hatchback has seating for four, the second row is cramped, confined and really only suitable for very small people or your backpack/handbag to make room for the front passenger.

The second row also means that boot space measures a meagre 211 litres, really only enough for a few overnight bags or some groceries.

In the JCW GP, though, the rear seats are removed altogether, meaning boot space swells to a gargantuan 612L, making it more voluminous than a Toyota RAV4!

With the second row of seats removed, boot space is rated at 612L. With the second row of seats removed, boot space is rated at 612L.

So, depending on how you look at it, Mini’s move to remove the rear seats in the JCW GP could make it the most practical three-door hatchback in the brand’s stable?

Okay, you’ll never bring the JCW GP on a trip to Ikea with that rear brace eating into the useable space, and your groceries just have more room to move around without a dedicated divider between the boot and cabin, but there’s no denying the extra volume afforded by ditching the rear seats.

In the front seats, the practicality of the JCW GP mirrors its less-hardcore hatchback counterparts, offering a generous door pocket that will fit a large water bottle, a small centre storage cubby, decent glove box and two cupholders near the shifter.

The sports bucket seats are finished in Alcantara and leather. The sports bucket seats are finished in Alcantara and leather.

Tucked under the armrest is a wireless smartphone charging cradle designed to hold your phone tightly, which is appreciated to stop your device rattling around and keeping it out of sight.

There’s certainly enough space around the cabin to empty your pockets when going on a trip, though you might not want much floating around if you plan on a spirted drive.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   10/10

Powering the Mini JCW GP is a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine tuned to deliver 225kW at 6250rpm and 450Nm from 1750-4500rpm.

Drive is sent to the front axle via an eight-speed automatic transmission and mechanical limited slip differential for a 0-100km/h acceleration time of just 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 265km/h.

Compared to other light hatchbacks, the JCW GP is by far the most potent in Australia, eclipsing the even the likes of the 200kW/370Nm Toyota GR Yaris, as well as the 147kW/290Nm Ford Fiesta ST and 147kW/320Nm Volkswagen Polo GTI.

Keep in mind, though, that the Mini JCW GP is easily more expensive than all the aforementioned rivals, even when considering the GR Yaris’ full retail price of $49,500.

The 2.0-litre turbo engine produces 225kW/450N. The 2.0-litre turbo engine produces 225kW/450N.

Some would argue that the JCW GP isn’t a true driver’s car because it no longer offers a manual gearbox, but the eight-speed auto is so slick and quick-shifting (and a manual mode is available with the paddles or a flick of the gear stick), you won’t miss having three pedals at all.

Sure, it’s a little slow in downshifts, but there is already plenty to contend with when going at speed, so adding a do-it-yourself shifter might be enough to bring more than a few people unstuck.

The same engine and tune is available in JCW variants of the Clubman and Countryman, though they come with all-wheel drive, making it just a tad less special.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

According to official fuel consumption figures, the JCW GP sips 7.5 litres of petrol per 100km, though we averaged 10.1L/100km in our morning with the car.

That drive was a mix of freeway and country B-roads without any inner-city conditions, which are not representative of real-world driving conditions.

Even with our higher-than-expected consumption figure, 10.1L/100km is pretty low for a performance car, likely due to the JCW GP’s small 1255kg kerb weight.

The JCW GP is rated to take only 98 RON petrol, making it a little more expensive to fill up at the bowser.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   5/10

The Mini JCW GP does not have an official safety rating from ANCAP or Euro NCAP.

The Mini three-door hatchback upon which it is based wears a four-star rating from ANCAP, but the JCW GP is so wildly different the results would not be comparable.

The JCW GP still features six airbags, cruise control and a tyre pressure monitoring system, but loses the front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, low-speed autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring found on its JCW donor car.

Though the JCW GP is designed for circuit work, making some of these active safety technologies a hindrance more than a help, it can still be road registered and does lack many of the features you would expect in any new car in 2020, regardless of price.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Like all new Mini models, the JCW GP comes with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assistance over the same period.

The JCW GP does not have any scheduled servicing intervals, instead the onboard maintenance system monitors the condition of the vehicle to notify owners of when work needs to be carried out. 

The system monitors engine oil and brake fluid levels, as well as brake pad condition, while a full vehicle check is also scheduled based on how often the vehicle is used.

What's it like to drive?   10/10

If you, like us, feel the standard Mini JCW hatchback is a bit too soft around the edges, you’ll be glad to know the changes made in the JCW GP transform the car into what it probably should have been all along.

Starting with the tweak in suspension, the JCW GP is 10mm lower than a standard JCW, while the dampers and much of the other componentry have been stiffened in a bid to boost handling prowess. 

The result is a much firmer ride, especially noticeable in some of Melbourne’s less-than-ideal roads, but also a wonderfully communicative driving dynamic.

This feeling of precision and control is also helped by the inclusion of a mechanical limited-slip differential, and wider and sticker 225/35 tyres, to keep the nose of the JCW GP pointed where you want to go.

With the front wheels having to contend with 225kW/450Nm and steering, you’d expect a fair amount of torque steer from the JCW GP, and you’d be right.

Flat-footing it from the lights will result in a jitteriness from the steering wheel, but it’s never anything overwhelming, and get on the throttle too early out of a bend and your arms will definitely get a workout to keep the JCW GP in line.

The mechanical front LSD, upgraded tyres, as well as increased track width and revised camber are designed to alleviate some of this, but the front-drive nature of the JCW GP means the old adage of ‘slow in, fast out’ still applies here.

Larger brakes with 360mm ventilated discs up front are also fitted to ensure you can adequately scrub speed before turning the wheel for the fastest cornering possible.

The engine/transmission combo is also a delight in such a tiny package, and with torque available so low down the rev range, you always feel there is enough boogie to propel the 1255kg JCW GP in any situation.

Though a standard JCW serves up multiple driving modes with efficiency and sportiness at either end, the JCW GP only has two – Normal and GP, otherwise known as ‘send it’ or ‘full send it’.

In GP mode, electronic aids are dialled down to allow a bit more playfulness in the chassis, but dynamic stability control (DCS) can be fully deactivated for track use.

I wish we had a chance to sample the JCW GP on track, to really open up its potential, but as it stands, the latest Mini flagship is an instantly likeable and charismatic hot hatch.

Verdict

With all the JCW GPs already snapped up before even pricing was announced, we suspect all 67 local examples have fallen into the hands of collectors, which is a huge shame.

The JCW GP begs to be driven, and driven hard, not locked up in storage with a dust sheet over the top.

If you are one of the 67 people who have the keys to a JCW GP, we implore you, take it to a track day, take it for a spirted drive, heck, just introduce it to a few corners because we bet – as for us – it will be love at first drive.

Pricing guides

$53,070
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$35,150
Highest Price
$70,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Cooper Classic 1.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $35,150 2021 Mini 3D Hatch 2021 Cooper Classic Pricing and Specs
Cooper Exclusive 1.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $42,200 2021 Mini 3D Hatch 2021 Cooper Exclusive Pricing and Specs
Cooper S Classic 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP $45,100 2021 Mini 3D Hatch 2021 Cooper S Classic Pricing and Specs
Cooper S Rosewood Edition 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $52,950 2021 Mini 3D Hatch 2021 Cooper S Rosewood Edition Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8.3
Price and features8
Design10
Practicality8
Engine & trans10
Fuel consumption8
Safety5
Ownership7
Driving10
Tung Nguyen
News Editor

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Pricing Guide

$57,900

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

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