After testing the Mini Countryman SD All4we spent a couple of weeks driving the spicier version John Cooper Works. Aesthetically, compared to the basic version, the JCW sees larger bumpers and more sporty aesthetic solutions, as it is not difficult to imagine. Not unlike the usual I do not dwell on the aesthetic description, leaving you to admire the photos accompanying this test. I limit myself to some very personal comments, especially on the livery of the car under test, in british racing green with red roof and mirrors, perhaps a little intuitive combination for those approaching the Mini world but very beautiful. The same can be said of the design of the black circles and logos.
Inside welcomes the classic Mini ambiance, small in size but still livable. THE seats are enveloping, but equally comfortable, even for a long journey. Behind you travel a bit uncomfortable, but for short journeys it’s not the end of the world. The Bagagliaio has a limited capacity, enough for a small suitcase and a purse, or for a purchase of two bags and a pack of water. However, it is possible to triple the space by folding down the backrest of the seats, split in two.
The driving position is very comfortable thanks to the adjustable armrest and the support in the door that allows you to rest your elbows and grip the steering wheel safely. This involves driving fairly close behind the wheel, a setting that comes almost natural considering the nature of this Mini. Heated seats on three levels and a heated steering wheel offer the right comfort even in winter, as does the height-adjustable steering wheel that also moves the instrument display, so that there is never the possibility that the steering wheel will cover information.
The steering wheel itself has a small diameter and an increased thickness of the handle, it grips very well and it is possible to tackle one lively driving with maximum control, although the steering capacity is no different than other Minis and, in general, other cars. THE steering wheel buttons mainly allow you to adjust the volume of multimedia playback and manage cruise control and ADAS functions. The buttons are large, they fall well under the fingertips and in no time you will be able to interact without having to look at them. However, it can happen that you press the buttons simply by holding the steering wheel, especially if you are used to holding it at a quarter past nine, an ideal position if you want to interact with the gearbox via the steering wheel paddles.
The instrument cluster consists of one central LCD screen from the opacifying coverage which, if on the one hand it eliminates reflections, on the other it makes the displayed images less sharp than desirable. Not missing a HUD that uses a plastic insert on which to view the speed and other information, such as cruise control activation or driving directions. The HUD position is probably too low; even when the seat is lowered to the maximum, the line of sight positions the information transparently on the upper part of the bonnet which is visible from the passenger compartment.
The touchscreen displayset in the classic round element which has now accompanied us since the very first Mini models, has a size of 8.8 inches and it is also possible to interact with it via the knob positioned in the central channel, a recurring element on Mini and BMW. The main novelty is the new software which does not change in substance but is offered with a new graphic layout and user interface. Although Mini has embellished it and inserted various widgets, we cannot say that it is intuitive; on the contrary, the new interface quickly confuses us, to the point that as soon as we got on board we had to stop to figure out how to connect a smartphone via bluetooth. It does not happen often, indeed practically never, and despite this aspect we found the appropriate menu in a few tens of seconds, the old system and all the competing solutions are much more intuitive. To be clear, it’s about spending a little more time on a steeper learning curve, which you can also avoid thanks to the compatibility with CarPlay.
The power button and all other controls are lined up in the dashboard under the central screen, in the classic and charming mini style. In this area there is also the toggle button to select the driving mode. A behavior that we did not like is the display of a few seconds screen every time we change the driving mode, particularly annoying if you are, for example, following the directions of the navigator via Carplay.
The driving modes are three, an “echo”, a “mid” and a “sport”. There Eco mode heavily limits the readiness of the engine to the pressure of the accelerator, but allows you to travel in comfort by limiting the consumption, especially if combined with cruise control that allows you to maintain speed and brake the car until it stops. It does not restart by itself, but simply pressing the accelerator is enough to reactivate the automatism. The “Mid” and “Sport” modes differ mainly on the readinessas Sport mode maintains higher revs, deactivates stop & go and thus maintains Mini JCW closer to torque values. However, we experienced the best driving experience with the manual gearbox, despite the fact that the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is fast and precise. What we mainly lacked in the driving experience is the sprint from a standstill and the recovery, where there remains that roughly second of empty space before the 2-liter and four-cylinder unleashes all its 231 horsepower. The 0-100 is indicated at 6.1 seconds (automatic transmission), and it is possible to reach them in ideal conditions with good grip. Mini JCW drives well and with maximum responsiveness at high rpm, if you let the engine drop below 3000 rpm you will have to switch to manual for maximum responsiveness.
In terms of driving precision, however, Mini is always… Mini, thanks to a rigid trim which makes the instant direction changes. Mini calls it the “go kart effect”, and it perfectly conveys what it means. Even on the forehand, an instant change of direction results in very little rollino and predictable accuracy that offers high control. Even when cornering on a surface that makes you lose some grip, the car communicates its behavior in advance and does not surprise you. Despite the trim and stiffness, you don’t need to compromise to travel comfortably; the adaptive suspension, in the “non Sport” modes, absorb holes well and allow you to travel relaxed. Of course, you won’t have the comfort of an SUVso to speak, but you travel as well as on a sedan.
Let’s dedicate a couple of lines to noise; Euro regulations (emissions) have put the motorized muzzle and especially, I unload, which remains choked in all modes and turns. The Rmood is dark and deep, but it cannot be said that Mini JCW is a car famous for its noise; while for some this aspect could represent a defect, for others it could almost be an advantage. Even if homologated, the noisy exhausts could attract unwanted glances, even from the FFOOs; having a car with high performance and, at the same time, silent, could also be a positive aspect, especially in historic centers.
Speaking of consumption, with a car like this it is really difficult to give a real average, because if you decide to travel in Echo being careful how you press the accelerator, you will be able to do the Approximately 15 km per liter, a value to be considered only if you have a long journey ahead. In all other situations it is more likely to consider one average around 10 km per literand values that are further halved if you want to take a lap on the track.