What is it?
The most eccentrically styled and least practical member of the John Cooper Works sub-range of high-performance Minis, which now includes a convertible; Nurburgring-developed two-seater ‘GP’ hatchback; the recently-launched and Land Rover Evoque-resembling Paceman, the World Rally Championship-nurtured Countryman MPV, and the mainstream Mini hatchback itself.
the little coupe is one of the best anti-depressants available without prescription
They are the ‘halo’ cars for one of the UK’s biggest car industry success stories. The Oxford plant which produces them has gone from 80,000 cars a year to over 300,000 in less than a decade, with further investments totalling £500m yet to come at the former BL Cowley plant, now celebrating its centenary.
This latest generation of JCW cars, however, has few outward visible changes over predecessors, with power outputs between 208bhp and 218bhp also little changed.
The improvements are made up mainly of faster responses in terms of accelerator, ride and handling, and improvements in both fuel economy and CO2 emissions. The result is a small, impressively rapid, entertaining package but, with a starting price of £23,800, at no small cost.
- Sparkling straight line performance
- Distinctive, love’em or hate ‘em looks;
- Agile handling
- Temporary turbo ‘overboost’ giving 15lb ft extra torque
- Individual wheel braking good aid to cornering dynamics
- Improved fuel consumption, but still no miser
- Reduced CO2 emissions
- Huge range of personal customisation options
- High purchase price- with options test car cost nearly £29,000
- Token boot space; no oddments space behind seats
- Unyielding ride from run-flat tyres
- Tyre pressure warning system can – and does – mislead
- Standard specification not generous
Business Car Manager Road Test verdict
Here at Business Car Manager we pride ourselves on the gravitas, objectivity and fiscal focus of our road test reports.
Not for us the emotive, tyre-squealing, boy racer ‘analysis’ of the consumer magazines. Not for us the subjugation of depreciation, frivolous options costs and BIK burdens to the illusory importance of speed, style and handling. No, it is to BCM that the mature and financially accountable come for sober, responsible evaluation and…
Whoa! Glorious, fast, downhill, right-hander coming up; on a sinuous ribbon of tarmac through deserted inland Portugal so smooth that only the Brits could have funded it via Brussels.
it’s one of the most resolutely potty cars on the market
Two snicks down the six-speed ‘box; tuck in the nose; balance the weight on the throttle; then grin inanely at what sounds most like a zillion hornets exiting the corner, in formation and at full chat.
Let us not beat about the bush. By any objective measure, BMW’s Mini John Cooper Works Coupe is one of the most resolutely potty cars on the road. It has the same overall footprint as the conventional Mini, but has seats for only two. The boot is a minimalist joke. Room between back of seats and rear bulkhead is as non-existent as on any mid-engined Ferrari – except that, like all Minis, the Coupe’s engine just happens to be at the front.
Its looks are unique, but only in the sense of a four-seat model having been perched on unwittingly by an absent-minded elephant. And for an overgrown roller skate of just 1.6 twin-scroll turbocharged litres, its CO2 emissions are elephantine at 153g/km, and its £170 VED rate and 42.mpg combined of little financial cheer to anyone but a Chancellor.
But by heavens it’s a hoot. In this its latest, just-revised form, bringing subtle changes to power characteristics and dynamics –and, yes, even those emissions and fuel economy statistics improve on the model preceding – the little coupe is one of the best anti-depressants available without prescription. Its sports seats look good and work well, and most will find the dustbin-lid sized speedometer optionally housing satnav and other data both functional and stylistically pleasing.
It is not, however, perfect; far from it. Fast progress on unyielding run-flat tyres makes for a jolting ride on uneven roads and a combination of 213PS and thumping torque of 260Nm from less than 1800rpm upwards provokes the inevitable battles with torque steer.
There is no spare wheel and the tyre pressure monitoring system is both misleading and malevolent. At night, in the middle of a Pyrenean snowstorm, the alarm flashed that we had a flat. Rubbish. The system works by comparing rotational speed differentials between individual wheels, not air pressures within. Faster rotation – to the system – means smaller wheel diameter – ergo, it concludes, tyre must be flat. In reality ours were fine; just slipping at different rates on fresh snow.
None of it, however, is enough to mar the fun. There is near-instant throttle response, individual wheel braking to help quick cornering and at 6.4 seconds to 62mph and 149mph flat out, enough oomph to give respected (and more practical) rivals like Renaultsport’s Megane or even Lotus’s iconic little Elise a straight-line run for their money.
It needs to, however; for this version of the Mini – indeed, the small family of Mini variants starting to wear the John Cooper Works badge – is far from cheap. “Ours” had a basic on-road price of £23,800 but with Chili sport and style pack, heated seats, bigger alloy wheels and a few other fripperies reached a heady £28,675. That’s £225 more than the only slightly less practical Lotus Elise CR, whose very long-term depreciation stands to be considerably less than the Mini’s (even sound 1990s Elises seem to have bottomed out at £8000-£9000).
So, can the little coupe put up any serious kind of case to the SME business user? Even with the drop to 153g/km CO2 from the previous model’s 169g/km, and the small reduction in fuel consumption from its predecessor’s 38.7mpg, the blunt answer has to be no. Even more so when the no-options-available, track-focussed Mini JCW GP saloon (but also with only two seats) can be had for the same money, or the new, vaguely Land Rover Evoque-styled Paceman model can offer more practicality.
If there is any SME business user case to be made for any of the Cooper “Works” models, it must be for the conventional four-seat Mini hatchback version at a basic £22,455, or the larger Countryman, expected to take 20 per cent of “works” model sales and which has small additional power (218bhp) and torque increases above its siblings to compensate for its greater bulk.
But the case is a flimsy one at best, in which head would have to yield humbly to heart.
The Low Down…
|Doors and body style||3-door coupe|
|Engine/gearbox||1.6-litre 4 cyl|
…and what it costs
|Monthly business rental (ex VAT)||N/A|
|Road tax (VED)||Band G|
|Company Car Tax Bands 2012/13 to 2014/15||22%, 23%, 25%|
|Benefit in kind 2013/14 to 2015/16||£5186, £5422, £5894|
|Annual/Monthly fuel benefit (20%)||£848/£71|
|Annual/Monthly fuel benefit (40%)||£1697/£142|
|Annual/monthly company car tax (20%)||£990/£82|
|Annual/monthly company car tax (40%)||£1980/£165|
|Figures correct at time of posting|
|For latest figures||Use our company car tax calculator|