WHEN F1 builder John Cooper turned his attention to the humble MINI in 1959 he created a template for performance that continues to this day. Whether on track or the rally stage, where the MINI gained multiple victories, it was a matter of more power, lower and stiffer suspension, bigger brakes, and a better wheel package for maximum grip. Packed into such a small package these elements combined for giant-killing performance. The 2022 MINI three-door John Cooper Works, henceforth called the MINI JCW, retains every bit of its original genesis.
Of course, the modern MINI is mini no more, but in JCW trim the three-door hatchback exudes an aggressive vibe, larger than its physical dimension. The MINI looks every inch the British Bulldog, its front bumper rippling with functional vents and scoops. In the rear, a much sculpted rear diffuser cuts deep into the rear bumper, all garnished by dual centre mounted exhaust tips. Red accents are standard with the JCW, so red side mirrors and said coloured roof earmark it as a performance MINI. Sitting under the wheel arches are large 18-inch rims encircled by a dollop of Pirelli rubber.
The sense of occasion slightly differs on the inside. Styling isn't as in your face, but instead, driver-focused. This is made lightning bolt clear by the physical handbrake at first. Drop into the racy manually adjustable sports seats and the Head-Up display whirs lightly into operation like that of a fighter jet preparing to make its way down the runway. From there, it's nothing to grab the chunky leather steering wheel, with its paddle shifters behind.
The MINI's interior feels dark and purposeful with its piano black accents and red trimmings to follow the exterior theme. However, don't believe that the MINI JCW is some stripped out sports car. They're still a premium brand and drivers are greeted by the MINI logo at night as they approach with keyless entry. Tap the button to open the sunroof and occupants will find themselves surrounded by quality materials. The switchgear is typical MINI, fun and filled with Germanic precision. The large central infotainment screen, provides more than just excellent audio from the harmon/kardon stereo system, operating quickly and easily, while displaying extra information via its light ring. There are multiple functions that can be set to automatic, including parking and in the lower settings, MID and GREEN, the MINI JCW can cruise efficiently in the 30mpg range.
No one's buying a performance hatchback, much less a JCW, to save on gas. It's being bought to invigorate one's driving spirit and the car never lets you forget that. Around town, it feels like a lit stick of dynamite under a glass bowl. The ride is firm, busy and it's best to avoid potholes like the plague, but when the moment is right and SPORT mode is activated the JCW can deploy its 231bhp and 238lb/ft in a literal flash. Whatever road, the MINI is on at the time becomes a temporary circuit or rally stage. Traffic ceases to exist, road signs become a blur, and one's driver's license begins to sweat. The reward for the driver brave enough to push the MINI JCW is a constant injection of adrenalin from every motion the car is making.
That is the pull of the 2022 MINI three-door JCW.
MODEL: 2022 MINI three-door John Cooper Works
ENGINE: 2-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder — 231bhp/238lb/ft
DRIVETRAIN: Eightspeed automatic/frontwheel drive
SUMMARY: Hot hatchback heaven for the hardcore driving junkie.