Mini Coun­try­man John Cooper Works Step­tronic

Mini’s much-im­proved new Coun­try­man gets the John Cooper Works treat­ment


WITH this de­riv­a­tive, Mini joins a se­lect ve­hi­cle niche, namely the hot com­pact cross­over that un­til now has been the sole do­main of Audi’s rapid RS Q3 and the Mercedes-amg GLA45.

Mini’s sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Coun­try­man is now a proper lit­tle SUV, with its di­men­sions and in­te­rior space hav­ing in­creased to a point where it’s suc­cess­fully mor­phed into a pukka cross­over that im­pressed in our ini­tial drive (March 2017) and test (July 2017).

The Coun­try­man gets the ex­pected makeover that in­cludes more ag­gres­sive bumpers, red grille high­lights, a rear dif­fuser and 18-inch JCW al­loy wheels (the 19-inch ones on our launch car pic­tured above are an op­tion).

In­side, it’s the leather/al­can­tara Jcw-branded sports seats that are the main highlight.

So, to the per­for­mance, then, and the key ques­tion of how much more it of­fers than the Cooper S de­riv­a­tive. The engine is a fa­mil­iar one – it’s shared with the JCW hatch – and again the 2,0-litre turbo’s power been upped to 170 kw by in­creas­ing boost to 2,2 bar and fit­ting a larger in­ter­cooler. Our car was equipped with an eight-speed Step­tronic trans­mis­sion with pad­dle shifters, but a six-speed man­ual is also avail­able.

There are three driv­ing modes – green, com­fort and sport – and, given the JCW badg­ing on the hatch, it is in the lat­ter set­ting that I spent most of my driv­ing time. The speed-ad­justed ser­votronic steer­ing, al­though a touch on the light side, al­lows for sharp turn-in, the firmer JCW Sport sus­pen­sion with adap­tive damper con­trol al­lows flat­ter cor­ner­ing and the Brembo-de­vel­oped four-pis­ton brake cal­lipers scrub off speed with sin­gle-minded pur­pose. It doesn’t, how­ever, feel all that much quicker than the al­ready nippy Cooper S de­riv­a­tive we tested; cer­tainly not R100k quicker. Along with the Coun­try­man’s in­crease in size has come an in­crease in heft and, at close to 1 700 kg, it’s go­ing to take more than an ex­tra 29 kw to make a ma­jor dif­fer­ence in pace.

There’s great trac­tion thanks to the all-wheel-drive sys­tem, which was some­thing our test route high­lighted with a seg­ment that in­cluded the scenic 68 km gravel Prince Al­fred’s Pass be­tween Knysna and Union­dale. De­spite the low-pro­file tyres, the Coun­try­man was im­pres­sive, never los­ing its grip on the loose and of­ten bumpy sur­face. Mini’s ALL4 sys­tem is an on-de­mand all­wheel-drive setup that de­faults power to the front wheels, but trans­mits torque to the rear in a split sec­ond when­ever re­quired.

While quick and a unique of­fer­ing in its seg­ment, the price tag does make this JCW de­riv­a­tive the do­main of the Mini brand fan. The stan­dard front-wheel-drive 141 kw Coun­try­man Cooper S is quick enough and con­sid­er­ably cheaper.

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