2023 MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop Review

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee


Engine: 2.0L Turbo I4
Output: 228 hp, 235 lb-ft.
Transmission: 6MT, FWD
Fuel Economy (MPG): 22/31 (city/hwy)
Fuel Economy (L/100 KM): 9.2/6.9 (city/hwy)
Starting Price (USD): $36.395 (inc. dest.)
As Tested Price (USD): $44,295 (inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $49,430 (inc. dest.)
As Tested Price (CAD): $53,235 (inc. dest.)

It’s been about 10 years since I last drove a MINI John Cooper Works.

Back in the days of the MINI Coupe and Roadster, I drove plenty of JCW tuned MINIs with various bodies attached. I love the raw handling, engine note, and smile-inducing driving experience. Less appealing were the cramped quarters, punishing suspension, and high price tags.

After a decade away from the JCW family, it’s time to see what’s changed.

Fully Loaded

I picked up my test car in late February, ready for a week’s evaluation. It’s a top of the line 2023 MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop with the Ionic trim. This includes plenty of features like head-up display, an Alcantara headliner, and wireless phone charging. In Canada the trim is referred to as the 2023 MINI JCW 3-Door Premier+. It’s the only trim available currently for 2023 according to the website builder.

Added to my tester are plenty of extras. It has the signature Rebel Green exterior paint with a red roof, mirror caps, and bonnet stripes. Inside, the seat material has been upgraded to the Dinamica/Leather material. The standard wheels were replaced with a set of silver alloys wearing 205/45R17 winter tires because it is February and we’re up in Canada.

My, You’ve Grown

The current generation MINI Cooper JCW measures in at 152.8-inches (3,874 mm) in length. That’s quite small, roughly the length of a Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback. But the original new MINI that was launched in 2000 was about 10 inches shorter. Even the second-generation Cooper was some 6-7 inches shorter.

Weight is another area where the John Cooper Works Hardtop has grown. As tested, my vehicle tips the scales at 2,892 lbs.(1,330 kg). That’s still well under the weight of most new cars sold today, but it’s also hundreds of pounds heavier than the previous two generations of the modern MINI Cooper.

What’s That About Best Laid Plans…

Everyone knows the MINI, especially the JCW, is legendary for its handling prowess. I was excited to see if the new car still had the chops. Mother Nature though, had other ideas. During my week with the car, it kept snowing. There was a huge storm the day I picked it up, followed by another storm four days later.

SEE ALSO: Mini Cooper S vs Mazda 3 Turbo Comparison: Little(ish) Bundles of Joy

During this time, I appreciated that the current car has a usable 5.6-inches of ground clearance. Combined with the winter tires mentioned earlier, and I had no issues on snow covered roads.

Amid the small reprieves in the weather, I could still feel how responsive the car is and what its limit should be like in sunny, dry conditions, on stickier tires. It still handles great and simply goes where the drive intends it to. It hasn’t lost that MINI intuitive behavior with how the chassis responds.

Turn it happens quick with short ratio steering. The front of the car grips as expected and gives enough warning before it’s ready to lose grip. The rear of the car never feels twitchy or nervous, even under more aggressive driving maneuvers.

Long Hauling the MINI

That stated, vehicle responses are decidedly toned down compared to JCWs of yore. The frantic, race-car-like reflexes of the old JCW are gone, which makes it a bit less fun on engaging switchback roads, but much more liveable on long freeway jaunts.

During my week with the car, I was able to squeeze in one international road trip to Detroit between storms. The 2023 MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop proved wholly comfortable during my trip. This is something that couldn’t be said about the older cars. The driver’s seat offers great support. Only my thighs started to go a bit numb after four hours behind the wheel. The old JCW would have had my fragile back in pieces and my kidney calling uncle by the end of this trip.

More Accommodating, Still Premium

With the new MINI’s larger size, comes more interior space. Front seat passengers get 41.4-inches (1,052 mm) of legroom and 38.3-inches (1,024 mm) of headroom. In the back, there’s 30.8-inches (783 mm) of legroom and 36.4-inches (938 mm) of headroom. Although those are small dimensions for the rear seat, this diminutive two-door can still fit a family of four with two small children. Behind the rear seats is an easy to access, yet scant 8.7 cu ft. (211 L) of cargo space.

The overall interior is decidedly premium, featuring great materials and a fun design. There’s an abundance of familiar MINI touches, such as the toggle switches, a centralized giant round display area, and a driver information center attached to the wheel.

The round center display area now houses a more conventional rectangular infotainment screen within it, that’s controlled primarily with a dial and buttons located below the center arm rest. The steering wheel is thick and easy to grip; something I’ve always appreciated about MINI’s wheels.

More Than Numbers

The 2023 MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop is as much about its drivetrain as it is the car’s handling. At the heart of the baby beast resides a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine pumping out 228 hp and 235 lb-ft. of torque. These numbers can be deceiving, as is MINI’s official 0 to 60 mph estimate of 6.1 seconds.

SEE ALSO: Mazda MX-30 vs Mini Cooper S E Comparison: Big Style, Small Range

The turbocharged engine pulls hard; harder than 228 hp should. The car can easily break the front tires loose under acceleration at various speeds. Even when approaching freeway maximums, the MINI continues to pull hard. Although I never tested the brand’s claim, the John Cooper Works will top out at 149 mph (240 km/h).

The center exit exhaust system provides a good amount of growl, but it’s quieter than JCW’s of past. The constant popping and crackling when lifting off the throttle are virtually non-existent. There is no more exhaust button either. The exhaust comes in volume and one volume only.

The 2.0-liter engine is recommended to run on premium fuel. Expect to see around 22 mpg (9.2 L/100 km) city and 31 mpg (6.9 L/100 km) highway on average. During my considerable amount of driving over the week, I saw averages around 27 mpg (8.7 L/100 km).

Row Your Own

Fuel economy figures would be better if my test car came equipped with the eight-speed automatic transmission, but where’s the fun in that? The 2023 MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop is a car that’s all about driver engagement, and thankfully my tester has the standard six-speed manual transmission.

SEE ALSO: Who Makes MINI Cooper and Where Are MINI Coopers Made?

Throws from this transmission are long, but gear engagement is precise. The clutch uptake is fairly accurate, with a medium amount of travel. In the car’s sport mode, there’s automated rev-matched down shifts. In the more relaxed Mid and Green drive modes, there is not.

The Verdict: 2023 MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop

Prices for this car reflect its premium nature. The 2023 MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop starts at a price of $36,395 (all prices include destination charges) in the United States. As tested, with all the options included, it comes in at $44,295. In Canada it starts at a higher trim level, with a base price of $49,430. As tested, it comes to $53,235 CAD.

The MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop is not as frantic as it once was. It doesn’t match the crazy response, razor reflexes, and over-the-top engagement of the old car. But also gone are the intrusive pops and bangs from the exhaust, the confined interior, and that ridiculously stiff suspension.

The MINI Cooper JCW has grown up and matured. It’s a better daily driver and less of a single-purpose canyon-carving toy. But don’t get me wrong. The car is still a whole lot of fun to drive, and had me smiling a lot during my week with it. It’s just much easier to live with now.


What is the price of MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop?

It starts at a price of $36,395 (all prices include destination charges) in the US. In Canada it starts at a higher trim level, with a base price of $49,430. 

How much horsepower does a MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop have?

It has 228 horsepower from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. 

Is the MINI Cooper JCW fast?

Yeah, we’d say it is. It feels plenty quick at most speeds and feels quicker than the quoted 0 to 60 mph time of 6.1 seconds. 

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  • Powerful Drivetrain
  • More Liveable
  • Still Fun Too Drive


  • Has Gotten Softer
  • Has Gotten Heavier
  • Can Get Pricey
Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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