The 2021 Mini Cooper John Cooper Works (JCW) oozes personality thanks to unique styling, quick-witted handling, a zippy engine, and a well-equipped cabin. It’s also steeped in history: JCW is the descendant of the Cooper Car Company, the race-car maker that hot-rodded and raced the original Mini of the 1960s. In 2008, JCW was purchased by BMW, which also owns the Mini brand. The JCW badge is now used across the Mini lineup to designate the go-fast models—including the hatchback and convertible reviewed here. These two JCWs receive several important upgrades over the standard model, including a more powerful engine and sportier suspension. If you crave a track-ready weapon from Mini, you should consider the Cooper JCW GP, which has even more power, a huge rear wing, and a sound-tastic exhaust system. The JCW hardtop we sampled rides more stiffly than rivals such as the Hyundai Veloster N and Volkswagen Golf GTI, and is more expensive as well. But if it’s fun behind the wheel you’re after, the Mini Cooper JCW is an alluring choice.
What’s New for 2021?
The John Cooper Works Mini lineup sees only a few changes for the 2021 model year, most notably the addition of the JCW GP model. Its turbocharged four-cylinder engine belts out 302 horsepower, 74 horsepower more than the standard JCW’s. The GP model also sits lower and has more aerodynamic elements, with an almost embarrassingly large rear wing bolted to the rear hatch. The GP also sports a louder exhaust system and a revised suspension. The regular JCW hardtop can now be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission; an 8-speed automatic is the only transmission available for the GP and convertible models. Mini has also added the Signature trim package for 2021, which includes a 6.5-inch infotainment system with navigation and Apple CarPlay.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
- JCW hardtop: $33,250
- JCW convertible: $39,250
- JCW GP: $45,750
Not splurging for the exclusive JCW GP–of which only 3000 will be made–is easy when you consider the $12,500 price increase over the standard JCW hardtop. The JCW hardtop comes with standard features including LED headlights, front fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, heated and power-adjustable side mirrors, and a rear spoiler. Being the “Save the Manuals!” people, you can guess which transmission we would opt for. Moving inside, the cabin comes standard with keyless entry and ignition, microsuede upholstery, and Bluetooth connectivity. The Cooper JCW also has standard driver-assistance features including a rear back-up camera and automated emergency braking.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Mini Cooper JCW is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four that makes 228 horsepower. In the GP variant, this same engine is boosted to 302 horsepower. The sole transmission for the convertible and GP JCWs is an eight-speed automatic; the hardtop gets a choice between the eight-speed auto or a six-speed manual, the latter new for 2021. All transmissions send power to the front wheels. In our track testing, a hardtop Cooper JCW equipped with the automatic made the dash from zero to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds. But the Hyundai Veloster N did the same run in 5.4 seconds, while a Volkswagen GTI automatic managed it in 5.8 seconds. Relative to the standard Mini Cooper, the JCW brings features such as Brembo brakes, a more aggressive suspension, and an electronic locking front differential. All this combines to help it deliver precise handling that’s a treat for enthusiasts. However, this Mini’s firm suspension can make the ride quality unpleasantly choppy on rough road surfaces.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA’s fuel economy estimates vary based on which body style and transmission you pick. The most fuel-efficient combo is the JCW hardtop with the 8-speed automatic, which returns 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. Opting for the manual in the hardtop drops the numbers to 23 city and 33 mpg highway; the convertible earns ratings of 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway while the JCW GP puts up 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. We haven’t tested a Mini Cooper JCW on our 200-mile highway fuel economy route, but during our time with a hardtop JCW, we observed 25 mpg in mixed driving.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The materials used In the Cooper JCW’s cabin are of high quality, and the design elements are whimsical and unique. The circular framing that houses the infotainment system’s touchscreen strikes a cheerful tone. Relative to other subcompacts, the Mini Cooper JCW doesn’t rank highly when it comes to utility. Back-seat legroom is tight, and those seats will be a cramped fit for most adults. In the hardtop configuration, this Mini provides 8.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind its rear seats and 34 cubic feet with those seats folded. With a rival such as the Chevy Sonic hatchback, you get 19 cubic feet with all seats in place and 47.7 cubic feet with the back seat folded. The Cooper JCW convertible’s trunk offers just 5.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
Infotainment and Connectivity
All Mini Cooper JCW cars come with a six-speaker AM/FM sound system, as well as Bluetooth phone and streaming audio. The list of optional equipment includes a premium Harman/Kardon sound system, navigation, Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, and wireless charging for your devices. Unfortunately, the Cooper JCW isn’t available with Android Auto.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
In crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2020 Mini Cooper hardtop received four out of five stars overall. The convertible body style hasn’t been tested by this organization. The 2020 Mini Cooper hardtop scored well in testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS hasn’t evaluated the convertible body style. The 2020 Mini Cooper JCW comes with driver-assistance features that can help you avoid accidents. However, blind-spot monitoring isn’t included in the lineup. Key safety features include:
- Standard rear parking sensors
- Standard automated emergency braking
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Mini delivers solid warranty coverage, with three years of complimentary scheduled maintenance. Complimentary scheduled maintenance isn’t offered by competing brands such as Fiat.
- Limited warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Complimentary scheduled maintenance is covered for 3 years or 36,000 miles