Cheap and cheerful: 2010 Mini Hatch JCW
In our ĎCheap and Cheerfulí segment, I usually try to highlight cars below £5,000 which are both fun and enjoyable. This week, Iíve decided to go slightly above budget because what Iím about to showcase is more than worth it in my opinion. Itís a car which is as fun as it is compact, and as affordable as it is good-looking. Yes, Iím obviously talking about the Mini Hatch John Cooper Works.
This particular example is listed on our website for just £7,988 and it has just 58,900 miles on the clock. Itís a 2010 model year, so itís basically done roughly 6,000 miles annually, which isnít a whole lot. Itís had just 2 previous owners and it seems to be in amazing condition. Itís obviously been well-looked after, as it doesnít exhibit any visible dents or bruises.
If you want a fun, affordable hot hatchback, but donít fancy a VW Golf or a Ford Fiesta, the JCW is an excellent alternative. More to the point, Iíd argue that itís better to drive than any of its rivals, as well as being better to look at. This example has had its price reduced from £8,950 to £7,988, making it a proper bargain whichever way you look at it.
The JCW is the flagship Mini hatch when it comes to performance. Itís loosely based on the Mini JCW Challenge racecar, so apart from a few minor drivetrain upgrades, it isnít wildly different to a normal Cooper S. From the outside, you can notice that it has a slightly wider body with flared arches, a different bumper both front and rear, and JCW-unique wheels to help it differ from the Cooper S.
The bonnet has a rather large hood scoop, which is a dead giveaway that this is a special model and not an ordinary Mini hatch. Thereís also a lower front splitter and a twin-exhaust central outlet in the back, a-la Porsche 911 GT3 style. Itís also littered with various JCW badging everywhere, including the front arches and on the rear hatch. This particular JCW has an amazing deep red paint finish, complemented by black racing stripes running down the bonnet.
Inside, the JCW is rather similar to an ordinary Cooper S, or even the basic hatchback Mini. Key differences are the slightly more supportive seats and several JCW emblems scattered throughout. One thing you canít fault with the JCW, or any Mini for that matter, is the build quality. The materials are premium and fit and finish are second-to-none. It feels great to the touch in addition to looking splendid. Most people I know love the central speedo in the dashboard, as itís a simple touch that pays tribute to Minis of old.
The Mini Hatch is not a super practical car by any standards, but it is surprisingly roomy inside. Donít be fooled by how compact it looks from the outside. Stepping inside its cabin youíll find that this compact hatch has decent space for four full-sized adults and a boot big enough for a few bags or the weekly shopping.
Engine and Performance
Because itís based on the JCW Challenge racecar, itís a lot more potent than a standard Cooper S. The 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder sits at 19 psi (as opposed to 13 psi in the Cooper S), but itís had its compression turned down to 10.0:1 to cope with the added boost. Total power output stands at 211 horsepower and 193 lb-ft of torque. Under heavy acceleration, it has an overboost function where it can churn out 206 lb-ft of torque momentarily. Power is sent to the front wheels only via a six-speed manual gearbox. The sprint to 62 mph takes 6.3 seconds and flat out itíll hit 147 mph.
I know it doesnít seem too impressive on paper, but numbers only tell half the story. The Mini JCWís greatest strength lies in the way it drives. As an upgrade over the Cooper S, the JCW gets stiffer suspension, Brembo high-performance brakes, an upgraded exhaust system, larger brake ducts, and a DSC system lifted from BMWís parts bin. It also gets BMWís incredible TC and EDLC (electronic diff lock). In short, all these components combined help create one of the most potent hot hatchbacks on sale.
The front end is really responsive and reassuring. Thereís no dead zone in the steering, making it super reactive and precise, even if a little too quick for some people. Itís an electronic rack, and like all electronic racks, it isnít full of life or feedback, but thatís a minor complaint. The reality is that you can place it anywhere you want to on the road. If youíre really brave you can even get lift-off oversteer.
The engine is a gem too. It loves to be revved out, but it has plenty of torque low down. In many ways, the JCW feels like the perfect car for twisty UK A and B-roads. A rear-wheel-drive performance saloon wouldnít be able to keep up with a JCW on a narrow ribbon of tarmac, especially in cold and damp conditions.
Model: Mini Hatch
Trim: John Cooper Works (JCW)
The downsides? Well, the ride is surprisingly harsh, it isnít as economical as a normal Mini, and like all hatchbacks, the JCW is too small for a large family of four. On the upside, itís one of the most enjoyable cars money can buy, so the fact that you can get it for so little makes it the bargain of the century.
Rating: 9 out of 10