The Telegram (St. John's)

Taking a look at the Mini...

- BY MATHIEU ST-PIERRE WWW.GUIDEAUTOW­EB.COM

I’ve written many times about how I disagree with the direction BMW’S Mini brand took a number of years ago. Be that as it may, I cannot deny that MINI has done reasonably well for itself over the last short while with the introducti­on and reintroduc­tion of many new and known models.

The Roadster, Paceman and the backwards-ballcap Coupé notwithsta­nding, the Countryman, 5 Door and Clubman have proven that there is room for larger, more useful MINIS. Obviously, the buying public was interested, resulting in decent sales; however, numbers have dropped considerab­ly in the last year. I know very little about most things, yet I think I know what’s going on. MINI does not offer a “real” crossover, but I digress.

If the Countryman was popular early on with station wagon buyers looking for a cool MINI alternativ­e, CUV buyers have no true alternativ­e. MINI car buyers have the option of a three- or fivedoor variant, so that’s nice. If they’re into barn doors, the Clubman’s got their name on it.

But is that really all the Clubman is? I hate to admit it, but now that it sports four convention­al opening doors, it might as well be called the MINI 6 Door… It’s still cool, kind of, but it’s more like one too many if you ask me.

John Cooper Works to the rescue

Also known as JCW, this version is the range topper. Under the signature clamshell bonnet is where the action begins. The “S” derived, turbocharg­ed 2.0-litre four cylinder produces 228 horsepower, up from 189. Torque is relatively hefty at 258 lb.-ft. and put to good use through the standard ALL4 all-wheel drive system.

My tester included the optional eight-speed automatic transmissi­on which, and don’t shoot me for this but, is really, really good. The first thing to know is that the 0 to 100 km/h sprint scoots by in the same 6.3 seconds as it does with the standard six-speed manual gearbox. The slushbox features wheel-mounted paddles, so not all is lost. Upshifts are crisp, especially in the Sport driving mode and pulls on the left-hand paddle are met with shots of engine rev matching.

This powertrain is a gem and makes things happen briskly in the 3 Door Cooper that tips the scale at approximat­ely 1210 kilograms, or roughly 360 kg less than the Clubman. What’s the main enemy to performanc­e, fuel economy, handling and overall driving pleasure in cars? Yup, weight.

This is not to say that the Clubman JCW is a bore; far from it actually. The point is, however, that this car is not realistica­lly aimed at a true MINI JCW fan, but more at someone looking for some entertainm­ent while driving.

This MINI still handles well, provides sharp steering response and compelling levels of grip, yet once more, not as a true JCW, but more as an alternativ­e to an Accord sedan or Mazda6. Am I making sense? Let’s put it this way: for the same money as my $40k JCW Clubman ALL4 tester, a Volkswagen Golf R is faster, handles better, is more refined and is just as roomy. It’s also as exclusive, but to a MINIAC, I suppose it’s not a MINI...

Unique, like all other MINIS

The multiplica­tion of MINI nameplates has rendered the brand’s styling far more common than it used to be. Even if there’s nothing mini about the cars anymore, its very distinctiv­e nose and styling is always fun to see.

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