MINI John Cooper Works 3-Door 2023 Review

If you're in the market for a sporty hatchback or sedan, your options are not limited. We can name a dozen off the top of our heads, including the Mercedes-AMG A 35, Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Veloster N, and Volkswagen Golf GTI. However, the MINI Cooper has consistently been a favorite of our staff due to its retro-modern design, stylish interior, and wide range of customizability choices.

Particularly in the JCW trim—which stands for John Cooper Works—MINI approaches the performance hatchback formula better than others. It is a logo that is attached to the range's sportiest MINI vehicles. The vehicle you are viewing is a 3-Door Hatchback with a manual transmission, three pedals, a striking Rebel Green exterior, and striking red highlights. You can tell it's a quick, cute, and athletic hatchback the instant you step inside of its cozy cabin.

A deep footwell and a steering wheel that stretches most toward the driver—possibly the most of any sports car we have driven—ensure a comfortable driving posture in every MINI. For taller drivers like us who prefer sitting far back but want the wheel closer to our chest so we don't have to bend forward uncomfortably, this makes a huge difference. The MINI almost makes us feel like we're in a GT car (not quite F1). More praise for the comfortable and at-one-with-the-car supportive sport seats. The fact that the driver gauges move with the steering wheel so they are always in the ideal viewing position beneath the rim also helps.

Additionally, the distance between the gear changer and the pedals is ideal. The clutch bite point is not the easiest to feel with your left foot, but we got a better sense of it through the engine snarl and minor creep forward. The pedals have more travel than we would like. It's a manual, so it's not as forgiving as a Honda or Subaru either, and for the gear shifts to be seamless, you really need to be in the right RPM. It takes a lot of work to perfect a smooth first to second shift without any lurching.

However, the manual does offer automatic rev-matching when Sport Mode is activated, which may annoy purists who prefer to heel and toe themselves. However, we found it useful in scenarios involving heavy traffic because it let us to give our feet a much-needed rest from the three-pedal dance. Additionally, choosing the Normal or Eco driving modes disables the automatic rev-matching even though there is no setting to do so in Sport.

We like it since the big gear lever stands out and nearly has an aftermarket appearance. It nearly feels like you're paddling a boat when compared to the Toyota GR86 or Honda Civic Si shifters because of how long they travel. Despite some ambiguity in the gates as a result of their lengthy journey, manipulating them along the H-pattern still feels deliberate.

The large steering wheel will subsequently be in your left hand. There aren't as many buttons or other distractions as there are in the Mercedes, and the design is straightforward. It feels thinner than earlier models, despite the extremely thick leather wrap and grips. Those with tiny hands could still find it difficult to wrestle. But since the center armrest constantly gets in the way of the handbrake, we wish they would remove it or at the very least reconfigure it. When the armrest is up, it interferes with our ability to shift and we are unable to pull it back far enough. It's a tiny ergonomic annoyance, but it's nonetheless notable.

But once you let go and spill the beans to the JCW, it's a really fun experience. Despite having a 0-100 km/h pace of 6.1 seconds and 228 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder seems much faster. It should be noted that the JCW 3-Door does not produce as much power as the Countryman JCW, which has AWD and generates 301 horsepower and 331 lb-ft. Without stickier tires and a more aggressive damper setup, we're not even sure this small FWD platform could handle such noisy statistics.

Despite the apparent limitations of its front-wheel-drive architecture, the way MINI has calibrated the dampers, traction control, and differential gives the car a neutral and balanced feeling. The JCW has incredible lateral grip and really excels when pushed into long, sweeping corners at 60 km/h, providing an early suggestion of understeer before finally settling into a surprisingly stable mid-corner dance that is simple to control with the throttle and steering. The Subaru BRZ and Toyota GR86 are RWD competitors that offer a much purer drive with unfiltered steering and a more spirited rear end. They are also more edgy and hard-core than a Volkswagen Golf R. It is more stable under power than the Honda Civic Si, and they are both more edgier and more hard-core.

Despite having firmer springs than the MINI Cooper S, the JCW rides nicely and is acceptable for daily use. The MINI absorbs bumps and uneven roads better than the GR86 or BRZ, however it is neither as comfy as a Golf R nor as compliant as a Civic Si.

Less of an angry beehive now and more of a sophisticated, mature, almost BMW inline-four roar, the exhaust of the JCW has been toned down over the years, and it is not the loud and immature symphony we have grown accustomed to, with few pops and bangs on throttle overrun. Roll down the windows and you can still hear the whistling of the turbochargers and wastegates even though the engine revs smoothly and without any of those rough edges that were once distinctive of MINI's loud engine notes.

The MINI cabin hasn't deviated much from its winning formula up until the 2023 model year. A large 8.8-inch monitor that changes color according on your inputs, such as red for turning up the heat and blue for lowering it down, dominates the interior. You can operate the screen using either a touch screen or a rotary dial, however we discovered that the rotary dial is the greatest option for using the interface.

Despite having only three doors, the MINI Cooper has two sunroof panels—only the front one is operable—for each row of seats. This provides weight and a significant degree of airiness to the little cabin. Strange for a JCW, but we assume that ultimate performance wasn't the objective – that was for the limited GP model starting in 2021. We do wish they had carried over that philosophy into a MINI Cooper halo, similar to what BMW does with its CS models.

Our MINI JCW 3-Door cost slightly under $50,000 despite having a starting price of $36,590. Even for MINI's fastest hatch, that's a hard pill to swallow, especially when you can get a speedier Volkswagen Golf R with AWD and 300 horsepower for $45,995, or a more nimble Toyota GR86 Premium with fewer horses but also for a lot less money at $34,490. However, if you're careful with your selection of options, you can secure a JCW for $40,000 without many of the luxuries that come with a premium model. There is still much to appreciate and gain from this engaging hatchback, and the mere sight of a manual shifter makes us happy. However, we believe that the ordinary Cooper S provides almost as many extras and fun for the casual driver at a more affordable price. For those that desire an additional two-tenths, there is the JCW.


  • Model: 2023 MINI John Cooper Works 3-Door
  • Paint Type: Rebel Green
  • Base Price: $36,590
  • Price as Tested: $49,640
  • Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Horsepower: 228 hp @ 5,200 rpm
  • Torque: 236 lb-ft @ 1,250 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
  • Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
  • Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.7

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