by Karl Furlong
High-performance hatchbacks like the Mini Cooper GP are a rare breed. There simply aren't many other hot hatches around offering the same entertaining mix of small size and big-hearted performance, and the new John Cooper Works GP aims to exploit this pint-sized gap in the US market even further. With 301 horsepower from its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, this is now the fastest-ever road-going Mini. It'll scorch to 60 mph in just five seconds, and the marque says it has lapped the Nurburgring in under eight minutes. For anyone who feels like the Honda Civic Type R takes up too much space in the garage, this is the perfect answer. However, although Mini's legendary kart-like handling and some outlandish body modifications mark the GP out as something special, it only comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission. At $44,900, it's far more expensive than the regular John Cooper Works hatch and the Type R. But if it's the ultimate Mini Cooper you're after, nothing else will suffice.
The 2021 Mini John Cooper Works GP is a new arrival and takes its place atop the Mini range. With 301 hp, it's over 70 hp up on the Mini John Cooper Works and adds a healthy 332 lb-ft of torque to that. Paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, it'll sprint to 60 mph in five seconds flat. A more engaging driving experience is assured with a model-specific exhaust system, a lowered suspension, and there is a special oil supply/cooling system exclusive to the Mini John Cooper Works GP. It looks the part, too, thanks to flared carbon wheel arch covers and bespoke front/rear aprons. With performance a top priority, the rear seats have been discarded, and acoustic insulation has been reduced over other Mini models. Only 3,000 units will be made worldwide, with just a sliver of those coming Stateside.
See trim levels and configurations:
|John Cooper Works GP||
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
The JCW GP is about as subtle as a pack of hungry hyenas. Its extreme body kit will either be something you love or hate, but if any car could pull off that wacky double-contour spoiler on the back and those wide wheel arch trim pieces in carbon fiber, it's a Mini. Interestingly, those arches are made from recycled materials from the production of BMW's i3 and i8. The contrasting paintwork is unique to the GP and, combined with the central exhaust outlets and the 18-inch lightweight forged wheels, it's a spicy looking thing. The darkened Union Jack pattern in the rear light clusters is a neat piece of attention to detail.
Mini hasn't announced specific dimensions for the GP; instead, it has supplied a range of figures for all three-door models. What's for certain is that the GP shares the same 98.2-inch wheelbase as the standard JCW models and, therefore, a similarly small footprint. The height is likely to be a little taller than the 55.7 inches of the standard JCW by virtue of that overt rear spoiler, this despite a 0.4-inch lower ride height. With those wider arches, the GP is likely to be the widest three-door Mini without taking into account the mirrors, spanning broader than the 68-inch body width of the lesser JCW. This is needed to accommodate a widened track, from 58.5 inches front and rear to 59.9 inches up front and 59.4 at the rear end. In terms of length, the regular JCW measures 152.5 inches, but we expect the bespoke bodywork of the GP to extend that figure slightly.
With a curb weight of 2,855 pounds, the GP is 77 lbs lighter than the JCW Hardtop and 262 lbs lighter than a Honda Civic Type R.
Mini doesn't give you a choice of colors, but this isn't a big surprise considering that the John Cooper Works GP is limited to just 3,000 examples. Racing Grey metallic is the primary exterior color, and it's contrasted with Melting Silver metallic for the roof and mirror caps. A third color, Chilli Red, is found on the radiator grille and the inside of the roof spoiler, while Rosso Red metallic matt paint is used for the GP logos and other select trim pieces found on the exterior.
The 2021 Mini John Cooper Works GP is easily the quickest Mini you can buy. Its BMW-sourced 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot delivers a strong 301 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. Those are healthy increases over the 228 hp/235 lb-ft outputs of the John Cooper Works. However, unlike its less powerful sibling, the Mini JCW GP only comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. This helps it accelerate from 0-60 in five seconds dead, and the hottest Mini yet will sail on to a top speed of 165 mph. That makes it one of the fastest front-wheel-drive cars in the world. The FWD hot hatch champion, the Honda Civic Type R, is similarly rapid. If your choice of transportation doesn't have to be a hatchback, consider the new Audi S3, which, at a similar price, is even faster thanks to its all-wheel-drive grip.
The 2.0-liter TwinPower turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the 2021 Mini JCW GP packs a ton of power for such a small hatchback at 301 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. Compared with the John Cooper Works, a newly developed turbocharger and modifications like a reinforced crankshaft help deliver the increased outputs. A model-specific eight-speed Steptronic transmission will disappoint those wanting to row their own gears, but the gearbox does at least provide standard paddle shifters for those who want more control over proceedings. However, in this manual mode, responsiveness is merely average. Left to its own devices, the transmission's upshifts are pleasingly rapid, and it's equally at ease whether driving aggressively or pottering around town.
The turbocharged motor provides tremendous power off the mark and on the move, but you do need to be careful with the throttle in to make smooth progress, which is where the non-GP Minis have an edge. This one can feel overpowered at times, and the engine note isn't especially engaging, even with the sporty exhaust system. On paper, this is the most effective Mini available, but in reality, it'd be even better with a manual gearbox.
Already lighter than the John Cooper Works, Mini has made a couple of other enhancements to the GP. A modified rear axle member and a front strut brace are among the changes, while the tracks were widened and the body was dropped by just under 0.4 inches. Rigidity has been increased, and there are specially tuned springs. All of this is aimed at improved lateral acceleration and clocking the best lap times, as evidenced by the GP's Nurburgring time of below eight minutes.
On the road, it translates into a Mini that feels less fun but more focused than other variants in the range. Torque steer and wheelspin are less pronounced than in other Minis, body roll is notable by its absence, and grip is exceptional. The GP just annihilates each corner in the most brutally efficient manner possible, making it faster but perhaps a bit less engaging than we want a Mini to be. Although there is a rear cross-brace where back seats would normally be, this is more to prevent luggage from sliding around than a contributor to enhanced rigidity. There aren't a ton of configurable driving modes to sift through, either, so there's no softening the rather hard ride, although it isn't entirely intolerable. So, although the GP may not offer all of the nuance and playfulness of lesser Minis on the road, it is a monster on track and on smooth surfaces where its power and grip can be fully exploited.
Compared with the regular JCW, the Mini GP unsurprisingly proves a bit heavier in terms of its gas mileage. It will manage EPA estimates of 24/30/26 miles per gallon compared to the JCW automatic's 26/34/29 mpg. The GP is a bit more efficient than the Honda Civic Type R, though, which has the latest-available figures of 22/28/25 mpg. With a gas tank size of just 11.6 gallons, the GP will travel a combined range of just over 300 miles before running on empty.
Although some sound insulation materials and the back seat have been removed, the racy Mini interior remains tastefully finished and retains the quirky, circular-themed design elements of lesser variants. A mix of Dinamica and leather-trimmed seats look good and are sufficiently bolstered. GP insignia, red seat belts, and red accent trim are further sporty touches. Soft Nappa leather covers the steering wheel, and the driver gets a stylish digital instrument cluster. Automatic climate control, navigation, and wireless charging are among the optional features. Most of the GP's standard specification is geared towards performance rather than creature comforts, with its paddle shifters, sports exhaust system, and high-performance braking system. As required on every vehicle in the US, a rearview camera is fitted, too.
The regular Mini's rear seats were hardly suitable for adults in the first place, so their removal in the GP isn't a great concern. The driver and passenger benefit from comfortable and reasonably spacious chairs trimmed in leather and Dinamica. Both head- and legroom are enough for most to get comfortable. As in other Minis, the sportily low driving position feels perfect for the car's intended purpose. Look closely, and you'll notice that Mini has tossed the rear wiper, presumably in the interests of saving weight, but this does affect rear visibility when the rear window gets dirty. Otherwise, the car's small size makes it easy to place and parking shouldn't be a problem.
Like the exterior, and due to the limited numbers that the Mini John Cooper Works GP will be produced in, customers won't have access to an array of interior color and material options. Thankfully, what you do get is quite pleasant. It starts with those comfy Dinamica/leather-trimmed seats in black with side edges in silver. Red accent stitching on the seats and inside the rim of the Nappa leather-trimmed steering wheel add to the sporty effect. The high-quality metal paddle shifters are 3D-printed, as is the trim on the passenger side that displays the number of the specific GP model in question. Behind the seats, the Chilli Red aluminum cross-brace dominates the cargo area and prevents items from sliding forward.
With no back seats to fold down, the 2021 John Cooper Works GP provides quick and easy access to 33.4 cubic feet of cargo space. The rear cross-bar is specifically installed to prevent items from sliding forward under hard braking, but the absence of a cargo cover will leave your valuables exposed. Still, it's a generous cargo area for a small hatch, although the unequal height of the floor from the back of the seats to the back of the car may prove an annoyance.
Small-item storage is catered for by a modest center console that often gets in the way of operating the handbrake, along with slim door pockets and two cupholders ahead of the gear shift lever. Oddly, there is another cupholder behind the central armrest for the non-existent rear-seat passengers.
Considering the elevated price over the standard JCW, the GP isn't exactly overflowing with equipment. Then again, this would be counterproductive to the hot hatchback's weight-saving measures. Inside, Mini specs it with a multi-function steering wheel, 3D-printed paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, manually-adjustable seats, a backup camera, push-button ignition, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, optional automatic climate control, and power windows. The circular LED lighting elements surrounding the central screen light up in concert with increasing engine revs or adjustment of the volume knob for the sound system, which is either cool or tacky depending on your viewpoint. Heated seats are offered as well, but that's about it for creature comforts. Wireless charging is available as an optional extra.
Mini's Connected Media system is standard, comprising a rather small 6.5-inch central color touchscreen along with a five-inch digital instrument display ahead of the driver. Clearly, the circular design theme limited the integration of the main infotainment screen, so the graphic images and displays are often hard to read and it requires too much concentration to select the right option. Thankfully, there is a physical rotary knob and hard keys that take some of the hassles out of fiddling with the screen. Bluetooth, satellite radio, and an auxiliary input jack are standard, navigation is an optional extra, and Apple CarPlay is offered, but Android Auto isn't available.
No recalls have yet affected the 2021 Mini John Cooper Works GP, although as a new introduction for the 2021 model year, it hasn't been around all that long. Every Mini comes with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty and a 12-year warranty against rust perforation. For the first four years, 24-hour roadside assistance is included. Added to this is Mini's three-year/36,000-mile maintenance program.
There is no NHTSA safety rating for the 2021 JCW GP yet, although the IIHS did review the standard three-door Cooper last year and awarded it a spread of Good ratings for all major crashworthiness tests. This bodes well for the GP's safety levels. However, the Cooper's headlights were only rated as Acceptable at best.
To handle its increased power, the GP comes with a sports braking system comprising four-piston fixed-caliper disc brakes in front and single-piston floating-caliper brakes at the back. Traction is enhanced with the standard mechanical differential lock and operates together with the dynamic stability control system. Although a rearview camera, brake assist, daytime running lights, and airbags (including front and side airbags) are fitted, the GP is less about the latest safety features and more about maximum performance.
Although flawed, it's difficult not to admire Mini's focus in this John Cooper Works GP review. It's been single-mindedly built to be the fastest, most track-capable Mini yet, and it achieves this with aplomb. Over 300 horsepower and under 3,000 pounds of weight combine to make this a formidable package that can legitimately challenge the Honda Civic Type R for straight-line pace. With tons of grip and less drama when powering through corners, it's a more effective tool than regular Minis, and, with its outrageous body kit, it looks the part, too. But there's no getting away from the fact that this is a less practical and much more expensive alternative to the standard JCW. We also can't help but feel that a manual gearbox would make it a more enjoyable car to drive. If these are compromises you are willing to make, though, the GP affords you Mini bragging rights that can't be beaten.
Take a deep breath. The Mini John Cooper Works GP elevates the price for a two-door Mini hatch into an entirely new realm. It carries a base MSRP of $44,900, which is a whole $12,500 more than a base JCW. This price excludes tax, licensing, registration, and a destination/handling cost of $850. At close to $10,000 cheaper, the less exclusive but far more practical Honda Civic Type R suddenly looks like a bargain.
The 2021 Mini John Cooper Works GP is the fastest roadgoing Mini ever produced and is available in one configuration only. Under the bulging hood lies a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 301 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. Powering the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, it'll hit 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds and top out at 165 mph. Tweaks like lower ride height, wider tracks, and specially tuned springs contribute to the GP's ability to lap the Nurburgring in under eight minutes.
Outside, an outlandish body kit includes a dramatic rear wing, GP badging, and lightweight 18-inch forged wheels. It also has carbon fiber wheel arch trim pieces that notably beef up its appearance. Inside, the rear seats have been removed in the interests of weight-saving, but the driver and passenger enjoy comfortable leather/Dinamica-trimmed seats. Automatic climate control and navigation are optional, but you do get a multi-function steering wheel, a digital driver's display, and an available wireless charging pad.
Few extras are available for the Mini John Cooper Works GP, and the various trims offered on less expensive Minis don't apply here, although buyers can opt for the Connected Navigation Plus Package. This includes navigation, telephony with wireless charging, and an alarm system. Mini hasn't yet announced any other extras for the GP besides an automatic climate control system.
As there is only one model to go for, the big decision is really whether the GP is worth the extra cash over the regular JCW. As a weekend toy and collector's item, there's no doubt that it is, but if you need your Mini for more than just this, the JCW may be a smarter choice. Options are few and far between, but we'd tick the box for the climate control system as the kind of speeds that the GP is capable of are bound to raise body temperatures.
The new GP is notably more expensive than other Minis. Put up against the base Cooper S, and you'll need to cough up $18,500 more for the GP. With 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, the Cooper S is naturally down on power compared with the GP, taking 6.5 seconds to go from 0-60 mph. That's nippy performance, but it can't compete with the GP. However, unlike the GP, the 2021 Cooper S can be had with a manual gearbox (the 2020 version only offered a dual-clutch gearbox), whereas the GP is restricted to an eight-speed automatic. Although the Cooper S is far from a spacious hatch, at least it has rear seats, which makes it the more practical option, although the GP does have a large cargo area. To drive, the GP astounds with its grip and poise, but it also feels occasionally too powerful, whereas the Cooper S has a perfect balance of power and control. It's difficult to directly compare these two considering the price difference; the GP is a much more potent machine and its rarity will appeal, but the Cooper S is a more balanced and far more affordable warm hatchback.
Set to arrive as a 2021 model, the all-new Golf GTI should once again prove to be one of the most well-rounded hatchbacks in the USA when we review it. While the GP is ideal for track days, the Golf GTI will be expected to fulfill multiple obligations as a fun-to-drive hatch, a family car, and a daily commuter. Although the Mini has a stylish cabin, the more mature GTI offers far more space as well as the availability of more creature comforts. Under the hood, the GTI will also pack a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo, but a power deficit of over 50 hp means it's comfortably outgunned by the GP. The GTI will also offer a six-speed manual gearbox and a seven-speed dual-clutch 'box, making it more appealing to more people. It should comfortably undercut the GP on price, too. All in all, the GTI simply does more things than the GP, but the ultimate Mini is the more charismatic hot hatch.
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