Engine capacity: 1.6-litre petrol
Power Output (bhp@rpm): 218 @ 6,000
Top Speed (mph): 140
0-62 mph (seconds): 7
Fuel economy (mpg): 38.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 172
Back in 1959 the new Mini was due to get a 950cc engine and a top speed of 90mph. This was all a bit much for company chairman Leonard Lord who declared it excessive and decried it should have a far more sensible top speed of 75mph. Given Lord’s dislike for speed, I’m not sure what he’d make of the new Mini Countryman JCW, the hardcore version of the firm’s baby SUV.
JCW stands for John Cooper Works, the high-performance Mini sub-brand, and it means the new Countryman is quick, very quick. And unlike its 1959 relative, it boasts 218 horsepower and will hit 62mph in seven seconds before topping out at 140mph. That’s chuffing quick and would probably have given Lord a speed-related seizure, but the Countryman remains a proper car and gets four doors, a decent-sized boot and, in this form, a nifty all-wheel-drive system. It’s just that it also gets a set of “notice me” racing stripes.
Essentially it’s a car capable of burnt-rubber hooliganism on empty Sunday morning roads, before popping into town to collect the kids from the cinema before navigating a snow drift. Mini hopes this translates to a sort of accessible, chuckable fun, the firm is known for but also offers all-season practical appeal. The practicality is certainly there, but what about the fun?
JCW cars are normally a little manic on the road, but how do you tell if a hot hatch is really ticking all the performance boxes? Well, you start to drive it like a bit of a tool. You blitz away from lights and thrash it down the straights. I didn’t. The Countryman JCW just didn’t feel mad enough. Its four-wheel-drive system adds a load of weight so other hot hatches will get up to speed before you, bonkers sideways action is harder to get at and somehow it just feels too big, too solid and too practical for this sort of hooliganism.
That said, it’s a great way to cover snowy ground very rapidly but safely. As usual with Mini, the controls are easy to use and the cabin stylish, but the low-profile tyres rumble away and the ride is jarring, even when you’re cruising. In that respect it’s just like it was in 1959. Then and today it probably gets the worst of both the performance and practicality worlds. If you really love the bulbous shape, go-faster stripes and Mini character you could do worse but if you just want a dose of practical fun, I’d go for a Ford Focus ST instead.