Mini has always been known for their retro styling and absolutely fun to drive vehicles. Throw the JCW in the mix and you've got a pocket rocket that's got the looks and the go, but with a hefty price tag near $40,000 can the Cooper JCW convertible prove to be a good buy?
Performance: There's only one engine to choose from in the JCW range and that's a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder which produces 228hp. You can choose between a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic. Picking between the two is a matter of taste. The turbo engine is swift and pushes the Cooper JCW from 0-60mph in 6 seconds. On the highway the Cooper is a hoot to drive and never disappoints, around town the power is well controlled thanks to the readily available torque at low revs.
Ride & Handling: The Cooper JCW is a real driver's car, it will put a smile on your face. The chassis is well balanced and is greeted with nicely-weighted steering. The tradeoff however is the overly firm ride that can be unforgiving on anything but the smoothest of surfaces.
Refinement: The JCW has a well insulated roof and doesn't have much wind or road noise with the roof up. Even with the roof down, there isn't much wind buffeting as in most convertibles. The wind-blocker and dashboard mounted heaters add an extra bit of comfort to the journey, but then again this is a convertible meant to be driven fast so the wind-blocker may not be necessary.
Behind the wheel: There's a low slung feel to the cabin. You'll feel like you're sitting lower than you actually are. This isn't a bad thing due to the fact that this is a sporty car. Drivers won't have a hard time getting comfortable thanks to oodles of adjustments for the driver's seat and steering wheel. Visibility is compromised due to the ragtop, but parking sensors are standard and should take the sting out of that.
Space & Practicality: The front passengers will be able to find comfort with ease, while rear passengers will be confined for space due to the small rear seat, with the roof up it can be almost claustrophobic feeling. The boot is very small as well, but for a car this size and the amount of performance it offers. Most won't really care too much about that.
Equipment: The JCW trim comes well equipped for the money. You get 17-inch alloy wheels, JCW-logoed trims and of course the turbocharged 208hp engine. You'll have to pay extra for keyless start, rain sensing windshield wipers and a few other luxury bits that should be standard considering how much it costs.
Buying & Owning: The JCW is very expensive to buy, but is well worth every cent considering the amount of performance you get and the unique driving experience that is matched with it. Desirability will keep the resale value of the JCW high. Fuel economy is okay so running costs won't be too bad if you keep a light foot on the accelerator pedal.
Quality & Reliability: Some of the controls on the instrumental panel are rather fiddly to operate, but once you get the hang of them. They will become second nature to you. Many of the materials used feel well built and solid. Mini hasn't enjoyed the best reliability record, but in recent years Minis have been improving reliability of their mechanicals.
Safety: Even though the roof has been chopped off, the body structural rigidity has been improved. There are two pop-up hoops behind the rear seats in case of roll over. Front and side airbags are standard as well as stability control. A differential lock is also standard.
The Cooper JCW is a unique convertible. It's wicked fast with excellent grip and handling. You'll surely be greeted with a smile when you drive one. However, with all cars there are its negatives. The Cooper JCW isn't cheap to buy and ofcourse there is the utterly useless rear seats and small boot. If you can ignore these few little bits, the Cooper JCW is a great car and will hold it's value well.
Likes: Addicting turbo engine. Well balanced chassis with sharp steering. Top up or down, the JCW is a hoot to drive.
Dislikes: "Chick car" image, expensive starting price. Options can send the price soaring. Rear seats are utterly useless, some controls are fiddly to use.