It’s been over ten years since the Mini Cooper entered the U.S. market, but it isn’t the dominating hot hatch it should have been.
There was a time when I thought hatchbacks would dominate U.S. roads. They are great alternatives to the SUV market, and with a change in perception, it is essentially a “smaller SUV.” Or, rather, it’s smaller than a compact SUV. With compact size, good utility, good gas mileage, and high performance iterations available, it makes for an enjoyable, multi-purpose car for those who prefer spirited driving.
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If there’s one thing I wish the U.S. had in terms of automotive selection, I wish there were more hot hatchbacks on the road. Yes, the Ford Fiesta ST and Ford Focus ST are excellent choices. Yes, the Volkswagen GTi is a proper, mature choice. There is no Subaru WRX hatchback to save me. But over ten years ago, it was the Mini Cooper that was supposed to dominate the market. An early Mini Cooper offered a great entry level price, while hopped-up a hopped Mini Cooper S added plenty of performance.
Motorweek gave their thoughts.
The 2016 John Cooper works Mini Cooper was recently released, but does it give you the performance impression it should have?
With 228 horsepower coming out of a 2.0-liter turbo-charged four-cylinder, there is plenty of power to make things interesting on canyon roads and on the track. EPA gas mileage ratings are 23 city, 31 highway. If there’s one thing I love about hot hatches, it is their ability to be fun and frugal.
The John Cooper Works version of the Mini Cooper is easily the “hottest” of the Mini Cooper brand. A JCW Aero kit is included with the engine spec’d out for maximum power as well.
The Mini Cooper is trying to establish itself more as a premium brand, and it’s understandable. While I may not find the exterior styling so agreeable, I do admit that a lot of thought has gone into the interior design and elements.
In my neck of the woods, the JCW Mini Cooper starts at $30,600 through the MINIUSA website. For some, that’s a tough pill to swallow. But for others that are loyal to the Mini Cooper brand and want a bit more pop and pizzazz, the JCW Mini Cooper is a great alternative.
Still, I can’t help but think that there was a misalignment with the original Mini Cooper versus the modern Mini Cooper. The original Mini Cooper was unusually practical for its’ size, kept ownership costs down, and was fun to drive based on the go-kart-like handling, not horsepower. The latest iteration puts a greater focus on design, interior materials, and power. Along with those changes came extra costs. Along with those extra costs came the loss of what made the original Mini Cooper great. The current Mini Cooper just doesn’t seem to have the character that attracted F1 drivers and musicians to buy them back in the 1960’s.
Perhaps it’s best not to think of the JCW Mini Cooper as a hot hatch and compare it to its’ peers. As a stand alone car, there’s a degree of exclusivity with the JCW Mini Cooper, and it is plenty fun to drive.