2021 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works (car review)

WHEN you get behind the wheel of a MINI, there’s always the anticipation that the journey you’re about to take will cause you to grin from start to finish. That excitement is further enhanced when it’s a John Cooper Works (JCW) edition.

It’s a name which has signified the ‘go faster’ version of a MINI, for a very long time, and like a standard MINI, there’s an abundance of customisation options, thanks to three new trim levels (but more on that later).

Union Jack painted roofs and door mirrors, bonnet stripes and different alloy wheels have been some of the popular choices to make your MINI your own. Doing so means always mean leaving the dealership having spent far more than you expected.

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But the car maker wants to make it easier for customers, by creating those three trim levels we spoke about, and in the case of the JCW Cooper S, they’re known as the Pure, Classic and Signature editions.

No matter the trim level though, under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, developing 170kW and 320Nm of torque, which is sent to the front wheels. It gets there via an eight speed ZF automatic gearbox.

The package propels the JCW to 100km/h in just 6.1 seconds. While those figures might not seem impressive, they’re more than enough to allow quick progress around town, and plenty of zip on open roads too.

It’s not simply about power either in a JCW. The word ‘go-kart’ is often found in the same sentence when discussing the fun that can be had at the wheel of a MINI, and that is very much the case with this car.

Trust us when we say you’ll find yourself grabbing the keys and finding an excuse just to go for a blast on your favourite twisty road. Safety is taken care of too, with autonomous emergency braking, speed sign recognition, and front and rear parking sensors.

There’s also a reverse camera, active park assist, and six airbags. The only omission is a blind spot monitor. Visibility is covered by LED headlights, with automatic high beam.

On the all important infotainment front, we find an 8.8-inch widescreen display in the centre of the dash, complete with built in satellite navigation, and wireless Apple CarPlay. Android Auto isn’t available in any form, at the time of writing.

Wireless charging is another welcome feature, although yours truly wasn’t able to fit an iPhone 12 Pro Max into the holder under the centre armrest, and had to use the old fashioned cable, plugged into a USB point to charge the smartphone.

Externally, there’s plenty of tell tale signs that this is a JCW, such as dual exhaust pipes, a bonnet scoop, a black honeycomb front grille with red insert, and a rear spoiler. It’s what sets the look apart from a standard, and already sporty looking, Cooper S.

Now back to those trim levels. The Pure version is priced from $53,700 before on-road costs, and is the least expensive option. Aimed at those who are buying the JCW for it’s driving enjoyment, it’s without any of the gadgets in the other packages.

It’s not completely stripped out though, as we do find features like keyless entry and adaptive suspension included. You also get some very comfortable, figure hugging sports seats, trimmed in a combination of Dinamica and leather.

Piano black trim can be found on the exterior and interior of the car, along with a beautifully trimmed leather JCW Sports steering wheel. There’s a choice of two 17-inch wheel designs as well.

The Pure has a smaller colour choice compared to the other two packages, and is limited to Pepper White, Chilli Red, Starlight blue, Midnight Black, and Thunder Grey. The interior is only available in black.

The Classic spec ups the price to $57,900 before on road costs, bringing with it 18-inch alloys, a wonderful Harman/Kardon 10-speaker sound system, head up display, and full leather seat trim.

Colour choices are enhanced with the addition of Moonwalk Grey, White Silver, British Racing Green (a proper Mini colour), Solaris Orange and Rebel Green. You also have the option to personalise the roof and exterior mirror colours.

There are four different choices in total, and three options for bonnet stripes. Finally, the Signature trim ups the ante yet again, with the addition of a panoramic sunroof, privacy glass, alarm system, adaptive LED headlights and a choice of three interior finishes.

Priced from $61,300 before options and on road costs, it introduces black lounge seats, or if you prefer something with a dash of colour, Satellite Grey or Malt Brown seats, both with contrasting door and dashboard trims. Truly luxurious.

All the pretty bits aside though, the 2021 MINI Cooper S JCW is about the drive, especially on some twisty roads. We headed to the Dandenong ranges, starting at the Kokoda track memorial walk (known locally as the 1000 steps).

From here, we headed off in our search for somewhere to test out that famous MINI handling. It didn’t take long before we managed to find some great bits of tarmac, with the added bonus of some beautiful scenery.

From the first corner, you can immediately tell that this car has been designed to put a smile on your face. The engine is responsive, the gear changes are smooth, and the steering is nicely weighted.

Add in a chassis setup that is sporty without being uncomfortable, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a great little hot hatch. You also notice very quickly that owning a MINI makes you a member of a very friendly club.

We had several other MINI owners wave to us as we passed in the opposite direction, and the more it happened the more enjoyable it became. So, it appears that you don’t just buy a car when you choose a MINI; you buy a way of life.

The only question that needs answering now is which trim level you should choose for your new MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works, and what colour it should be. It comes with a 3-year unlimited kilometre warranty too.

Our test vehicle was provided by MINI Australia. To find out more about the 2021 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works, contact your local MINI dealer.


Driving experience
Exterior styling
Interior look and feel
Technology and connectivity
Family friendliness
Value for money


Pros - still got that ‘MINI’ feel; cheeky and fun; trim levels make it easier to choose variant; wireless Apple CarPlay is a neat feature.
Cons - no Android Auto; larger smartphones don’t fit in charging adaptor; only really enough space for two people; Apple CarPlay display is odd.


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<strong>Pros -</strong> still got that ‘MINI’ feel; cheeky and fun; trim levels make it easier to choose variant; wireless Apple CarPlay is a neat feature.<br> <strong>Cons -</strong> no Android Auto; larger smartphones don’t fit in charging adaptor; only really enough space for two people; Apple CarPlay display is odd.2021 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works (car review)