MINI South Africa has begun selling the John Cooper Works (JCW) versions of the Clubman and the Countryman 5-door models. The JCW brand is renowned for its performance aspect which adds spice to otherwise normal MINI cars. So far 721 JCW models have found homes in Mzansi. These two are aimed at MINI family men and women who feel the need to take on family hot hatches on the road, and succeed.

The pair are kitted out nicely with John Cooper Works badges and parts. The front grille for example, features such a badge, as does the rear end. Front foglights are replaced by external radiators which help with the engine cooling. Ground clearance is different of course, with the Clubman registering 14cm and the Countryman 16.5cm. Some of the standard equipment includes LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels with 225/40 R18 size tyres, Park Distance Control, JCW sports seats, automatic air conditioning with microfilter and Cruise Control with Brake Function among others.

The options list includes such items as a panoramic glass sunroof, 19-inch wheels, seat heating for front occupants, a Harman/ Kardon sound system, satellite navigation, MINI Connected, wireless smart phone charging and others.

Both vehicles are powered by the company 2.0-litre turbo engine (4-cylinder) that produces a strong 170kW between 5 000rpm and 6 000rpm, as well as 350Nm of torque between 1 450rpm and 4 500rpm. Both can be specified with either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic gearbox. Both also have the ALL4 all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. Despite this, the Clubman achieves a claimed 0 – 100km/h time of 6.3 seconds, to the Countryman’s 6.5 seconds. ALL4 can send up to 100% of torque to the rear axle for that extra “go-kart” feel that MINI believes is still inherent even in their bigger cars.

Weight probably plays the bigger role where the Countryman weighs in around 155kg more. Interestingly the quoted average fuel consumption figures are the same. However, Countryman does have a slightly bigger fuel tank (51 litres vs 48 litres).

Some of the competitors envisaged for the Clubman JCW include the Volkswagen Golf GTI and the pair – besides the AWD that Clubman JCW carries – seem quite evenly matched in terms of what they offer and price. Driving the Clubman I found it quite refined, very little “vrrrrrrr pha” tendencies from the two exhaust tailpipes, although it did occasionally crackle when changing down. Being a MINI means it handled exceptionally well, but being 4.25m long, the famous “go-kart-like handling” is not exactly there. The Clubman is composed, matured and definitely not a boy racer.

On the other hand, the Countryman is meant to take a little bit of rough and tumble, and through over 40km of varied gravel surfaces, I found it stiff but relatively comfortable. Over harder bumps though the suspension did feel quite hard, which denotes a bias towards tarmac, rather than the rough stuff. Mind you also, ALL4 is not an off-road system and won’t allow for driving in serious deep sands, forests and mud. The closest competitor to the Countryman JCW is probably the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic.

MINI does pretty well in this country as a premium small to medium sized product. The addition of the Clubman John Cooper Works and Countryman John Cooper Works gives it access to the four-door hatch market that is quite popular, but dominated almost entirely by a single player. With highly competitive prices and a super product on its own, we see the pair taking some good market share from the leader.


MINI Clubman and Countryman JCW Prices

Clubman JCW manual (R558 612)

Clubman JCW automatic (R584 516)

Countryman JCW manual (R610 612)

Countryman JCW automatic (R636 510)

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