If offered a choice to own a sports car, many would put their finger (and money) on Ms, AMGs and RSs. Why not; you get the snob value, the performance, the grunt and the ladies. They are the perfect consort to arrive at a posh diner. The ultimate garage car. But in all honesty, would you be doing justice to the machine and all its capabilities? Or would it end up being a prop that you pose with every Sunday?
For most of us, it would be the latter. Not because we lack the skill or passion, but because we just don’t have the right set of roads to extract those horses, and racetracks are scarcely jotted on the Indian map. You could brave the nights and entertain yourself on the streets but to put it fair and square, it is most likely going to be illegal. What you’ve spent all that money on then, is a very expensive Uber ride.
Let’s get back to the first statement, and let’s pay a little more attention to a brand that sits in BMW’s stable. I’m drawing your eyes to Mini, and the car in focus is the Mini JCW (John Cooper Works), which with its tweaked suspension, increased engine output and larger brakes earn the same sort of recognition that an ‘M’ badge would. It’s equally good at making a statement, and limited units out there make it exceptionally rare and instantly recognisable.
Before you nay away by a few allegations in defence, let me get things straight. Most would discard the Mini JCW because of its sheer compactness. But it turns things around by offering sublime levels of agility when driving through the chaos of the city. You can be an absolute hoot and extract a lot more, hitting the sweet spot even on those grocery runs. It sits under four metres long (making it the fastest sub-4 metre hatchback) and is shorter than a Renault Kwid. Imagine then, how potent the 2.0-litre turbocharged unit would feel in a car that only weighs 1,340 kgs. With the engine capable of pumping 228bhp, the Mini JCW is what you could term a legal go-kart for the city.
That’s not all. The compactness ensures you’ll always have enough space for yourself, your date and her fancy handbag, nothing else. It’s a three-door hot hatch that stays true to its genes even today, and that’s making a statement in itself. In traffic, it fits in just right but has as much road presence as a supercar. The sport suspension is stiff, but there’s enough amount of ground clearance to clear those speed bumps. The bi-product of all that stiffness is lots of smiles as you get on a good windy section. There’s good body control and almost negligible body roll. It’s set up to attack a track with utmost precision whilst delivering a slightly above-average ride comfort in the city. That is a win-win for a car of this calibre.
It’s an FWD which means many would view it with contempt, fearing excessive torque steer when given the beans. But thanks to the intelligent electronic LSD the Mini JCW handles rather well. It’s composed and balanced, very much capable of obliterating windy sections with confidence. Don’t let its compactness or wrong-wheel drive fool you, this pocket rocket is capable of achieving a nought to 100kmph time of just 6.1 seconds. That is mighty impressive.
Thanks to the uprated four-piston fixed-calliper brakes, the JCW is capable of providing sufficient stopping power and bite, keeping those with fast changes of pace and direction in check. Had the eight-speed transmission kept up, things would have been slightly more aggressive on this go-kart. Not that the unit is sluggish, but the rest of the car feels so quick and agile, the transmission fails to match up. However, it does get paddle shifters that you could always resort to.
This British icon dares you to be different. The cabin isn’t conventional by any means, the instrument cluster is straight out of a naked streetfighter, the circular infotainment system takes the centre stage not just on the dashboard but the entire cabin, and the overall execution is extraordinary and fantastic. It feels luxurious, it sure is funky and certainly unique. Which other sports car can stand out so effortlessly?
Conventional wisdom says the more dough you spend, the faster sports car you get – but does that ring true every time? The Mini JCW was tweaked to plaster a smile on your face every time you sat behind the wheel and that’s where it truly shines. Say what you have to about the Ms, AMGs and RSs but in the circuit that’s built around the tall buildings, the roundabouts, the traffic lights and the chaos and madness of the city, this Mini JCW is the real champion and by a large margin. It’s brilliantly entertaining and comes with the right dose of proportions that make it all the sports car you’d ever need. Time to slay the big boys then?