Now, most people probably have no idea who John Cooper was, and the fact that his namesake is found on the 2016 MINI Cooper JCW twice(!) means a quick history lesson is in order. Following the introduction of the original Mini in 1959, Cooper – a British car maker and racer – wanted to transform this small car into a performance car, and in 1961, the Mini Cooper was born. John Cooper Works was created to put the same level of tune to the modern version of the car, called the MINI Cooper, and the MINI Cooper JCW was born. Fifty five years after these two names were ceremoniously united, I had a chance to spend a week in the 2016 MINI Cooper JCW to experience its pint-sized performance.
2016 MINI Cooper JCW Exterior:
Even for people who don’t obsess about cars, the current MINI Cooper is instantly recognizable with its oversized headlights, clamshell hood and, more often than not, its iconic British two-tone paint job. Retro styling is never easy as the car, at some point, needs to be updated and redesigned, and MINI has stayed surprising true to the original with what is now the third generation of the modern MINI Cooper.
When it comes the styling of the 2016 MINI Cooper JCW, it’s a little easier to tell this model apart from the other with its sporty bumpers, bigger wheels and various “John Cooper Works” badging; the vented hood, center outlet exhaust and big liftgate spoiler are all carried over from the Cooper S. Unlike the Cooper and Cooper S, the 2016 MINI Cooper JCW is only available in the two-door hardtop body style, but it does offer enough color combination options – for the body, roof and mirrors alone – that the customization potential for this car is practically limitless. This tester came painted in Chili Red with black roof and mirror caps. Honestly, the only thing I didn’t like about this car’s design was the optional ($750) 18-inch JCW Cup five-spoke, two-tone wheel design, which had the spokes bubbled out and look extremely susceptible to curb damage… although they did provide for a perfect window to the red brake calipers.
2016 MINI Cooper JCW Interior:
Once inside the 2016 MINI Cooper JCW, you’ll notice that MINI loves its circular shapes including the massive center stack with an integrated display screen. Even cooler is that there is a ring of LEDs around the center stack that illuminates differently when operating different vehicle functions including the stereo, climate control and even backup assist. Adding to the car’s sporty vibe, the steering wheel has thick rim, large thumb grips and is covered with a mix of smooth and perforated leather, and it’s all accented with dashes of red trim and the checker-flag accents on the dash.
Sport bucket seats with stiff side bolsters and adjustable thigh support offer a great seating position and excellent visibility, while the various toggle switches throughout the cabin finish off the racecar-like look and feel. The current MINI Cooper launched for the 2015 model year, but there is nothing “mini” about this car with lots of room for front passengers. The back seat has a good amount of space for passengers, although the lack of rear doors makes these seats less user friendly. There is a good amount of cargo space available with 8.7 cubic feet of volume found behind the rear seats and up to 34 cubic feet when the seats are folded flat.
2016 MINI Cooper JCW Performance:
Under the hood of the 2016 MINI Cooper JCW is a 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injected inline-four rated at 228 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. While a six-speed manual gearbox is offered, the $1,500 six-speed sport automatic transmission isn’t a bad choice on this JCW since it delivers the quickest acceleration time of the Cooper lineup with a 0-60 time of 5.9 seconds – versus 6.1 seconds with the manual, 6.4 seconds on the Cooper S and 7.3 seconds on the Cooper.
Paddle shifters are the perfect cure for drivers who can’t live without manual shifting abilities, but it’s the three driver-selectable driving modes that really help fine tune how this car drives and handles. The three modes are selected by rotating the ring around the base of the shifter. Mid mode delivers the most neutral feeling with decent acceleration and steering that isn’t too jerky. Sport mode (indicated by a go-kart icon on the center touchscreen display) tightens up the car and enables the sport exhaust note. Finally, Green mode, the auto stop/start system is most effective, and it’s probably the easiest way to achieve the EPA fuel economy estimates of 25 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway**. Depending on which mode you select, the 2016 MINI Cooper JCW is a blast to drive.
2016 MINI Cooper JCW Safety:
The same ultra-rigid body structure that gives the 2016 MINI Cooper JCW its stellar handling capabilities also plays an integral part in making this car as safe as it is fun. Other features include available adaptive cruise control and eight standard airbags, so it’s no surprise that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the three-door MINI Cooper with the coveted 2016 Top Safety Pick+ and even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave this car a four-star overall rating. The 2016 MINI Cooper JCW comes with a three-year, 36,000-mile maintenance program where MINI covers all regularly scheduled maintenance at no cost.
2016 MINI Cooper JCW Overall:
It might be small, but the 2016 MINI Cooper JCW sure is big on fun! With a starting price of $30,600*, the 2016 MINI Cooper JCW costs almost $10,000 more than a base MINI Cooper Hardtop ($20,950*) and about $6,000 more than the mildly sporty MINI Cooper S ($24,400). As you see it here with all of the options and packages, the 2016 MINI Cooper JCW used for this review carried an as-tested price of $37,350, which puts it in the neighborhood of bigger, sportier vehicles like the Volkswagen Golf R and Subaru WRX STI.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation-affiliated MINI dealership and test drive the 2016 MINI Cooper today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2016 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.