2024 MINI John Cooper Works 3 Door: We’ll Miss That Manual Gearbox

Strong points
  • Agile and punchy
  • Remarkable handling
  • Pleasant interior
  • The last manual JCW
Weak points
  • Tight rear seats and trunk
  • Stiff ride
  • High price
Full report

The current generation of the iconic MINI Cooper is coming to an end, with a replacement due for 2025. Sadly, the latter will not retain the manual transmission, brand CEO Stefanie Wurst confirmed earlier this year.

While in South Carolina to take part in the BMW Test Fest a couple of weeks ago, we had the opportunity to not only sample many the German automaker’s sportiest cars, including the M2, M3 and M5, but also get a close look at the all-new 2025 MINI Countryman JCW and even do three laps behind the wheel of a BMW M1 IMSA race car.

We were also allowed some lap time with a bunch of MINI models, and pushing a manual John Cooper Works 3 Door around a track is something we definitely could not pass up.

Photo: Julien Amado

True to Form

The MINI 3 Door may be old, but it still looks cute and charming, as our red-on-grey tester demonstrated. Inside, the two-tone seats with houndstooth fabric were simply awesome. Too bad we can’t find them anywhere on MINI’s Canadian online configurator. 

The interior is nicely designed with a large ring in the middle of the dashboard encompassing the centre touchscreen and a few controls. The infotainment system is fairly intuitive to use for the most part, but the instrument cluster in front of the steering wheel can be hard to read when sunlight bounces off of it.  

At 5’9” tall, this writer enjoyed a sufficient amount of space in the driver’s seat, but not so much in the back. As for the trunk, well, you don’t buy a MINI 3 Door for long trips, let’s just say that. It can be a good car for a couple with no children, mind you.

Photo: Julien Amado

Fun Above All Else

On the road, the littlest MINI wastes no time putting a smile on the driver’s face. Zippy and nimble, it can shoot for the tightest spots in traffic and isn’t afraid of making U-turns. Parking, likewise, is child’s play. Progressive clutch action and a smooth-operating shifter make the manual transmission easy to live with in daily driving. On the other hand, the stiff ride can take its toll, especially in sporty John Cooper Works trim.

The turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine under the hood delivers ample power (228 hp) and torque (236 lb-ft) considering the car’s light weight (1,295 kg). In fact, the MINI JCW 3 Door sprints from 0-100 km/h in around 6 seconds—barely half a second slower than the 315-horsepower Honda Civic Type R. Both are FWD cars, to be clear.

Photo: Julien Amado

And you know what? The MINI feels even quicker than the numbers suggest. If you’re looking for thrills behind the wheel and bang for your buck, you’ve come to the right place. As we headed up the hills near Greenville, South Carolina, we got a real kick out of it. The combination of a light mass, short wheelbase and punchy engine makes this British kart a treat to drive.

The 228 ponies don’t overwhelm the front wheels, even at full throttle in the first couple of gears. You can play with the stick all you want while launching the car energetically in a succession of corners. Braking performance is also worthy of praise. In fact, the main limitation for the MINI JCW 3 Door comes from the stock tires, which reach their limit sooner than the chassis can approach its own. With grippier rubber, you could easily hit apexes at a faster clip, although you’d be better off doing that on a track.

Still, there is so much fun to be had on public roads. Unlike some of today’s sports cars that can’t really be challenged on anything other than tarmac, this hot hatch doesn’t need a closed course to show what it’s capable of.

Photo: Julien Amado

Big Price to Pay

Driving the MINI JCW 3 Door is an exhilarating experience, for sure, but the high price will make you fall back to earth pretty fast. A 2024 model specified almost exactly like the one we tested in South Carolina will set you back $51,342, with lease payments of $761 a month over 48 months. 

For the same amount of money, you could get your hands on a roomier and more versatile Volkswagen Golf R with nearly 100 extra horsepower and all-wheel drive on top of that. Of course, strong demand for the latter means you’ll probably end up paying a few grand more, but you get the idea.

On the other hand, this is the last opportunity you’ll ever have of buying a MINI JCW with a manual transmission. A few units are still available in Canada. What are you waiting for?

Share on Facebook