MINI Countryman JCW (2024) review
The high-performance version of MINI's Countryman crossover returns.
Matt Robinson
Matt Robinson

Published on February 20, 2024

MINI, as a company, might be making the transition to being an all-electric manufacturer sooner rather than later, but there's still time for a few more petrol-powered models to make an appearance before that zero-emissions day comes. One such example is the new Countryman John Cooper Works. It is no longer the most out-and-out powerful variant in the line-up - that honour goes to the electric Countryman SE - yet the 'JCW' is still the most accelerative and the one aimed at driving enthusiasts. So, is it any good?

In the metal

You know what you're getting with the MINI Countryman these days, as it has been around in its 'modern' (read: 21st century) form now since 2010. This is the third attempt at the format and it features squared-off light signatures at the front, LED rear clusters with one of three graphical displays (you can switch through them, allowing for 'even more personalisation' in your MINI and also so you can avoid the questionable Union Jack motif if you want...), and a few natty details such as that 'floating' C-pillar bit just behind the rear doors, which makes the roof look like it is detached from the body.

OK, it's a physically large thing, so you're going to be fielding numerous 'MINI isn't mini any more' snidey comments about it, and while its stance is largely appealing and chunky, there are aspects where the design can look a bit busy and over-fussy - specifically, when you view the Countryman JCW from the rear three-quarters. However, with its trademark MINI flourishes, such as contrasting roof colours, the new JCW badges (a sort of stylised chequered flag) and the usual signifiers of a performance model in the form of big alloys, quad exhausts and a meaty lower body kit, the hot crossover looks good to us.

Inside, it follows the pattern set by all new MINIs, be they electric or petrol, in that everything is centred on a 9.4-inch OLED circular touchscreen with the company's latest Operating System 9 software on it. As ever, this sort of reliance on one main display will either delight or infuriate people, with very few merely ambivalent about it. There's no doubting the system looks great and responds quickly, and there are onboard personal assistants including a digitised dog called Spike who pops up on the screen from time to time to help out with various functions (like a canine version of Clippit the paper clip, from Microsoft Office at the turn of the millennium), but if you're hoping for plenty of physical switchgear in the Countryman JCW, you'll be left disappointed.

There are a few main controls surviving on the 'Toggle Bank', including the drive selector, engine-start twist-knob thingy and the 'Experience Mode' switch, but all the climate controls have been melded into the screen and there's nothing in front of the driver apart from the steering wheel and one of those 'pop-out' head-up displays. Some will love this tech-centric minimalism; others will lament the fact you often have to take your eyes off the road to operate various features of the Countryman's cabin. For what it's worth, we didn't think it was anything like the worst or most distracting of these types of human-machine interfaces, but similarly we found the older MINI models' cabins more intuitive when using them on the fly.

Aside from this, the general look and quality of everything are good, albeit there are one or two cheap plastics and jarring details which let the MINI's cabin down slightly - one of the latter of these being the particularly feeble paddle shifts on the steering wheel. However, the Countryman's large exterior size results in a second row that is genuinely occupiable by adults, in comfort no less, and then at the back is a boot which measures at least 460 litres, so the Countryman's oversized proportions do mean a practical interior.

Driving it

With no diesel models any longer, MINI is giving buyers a straight choice in the new Countryman: petrol or electric. The JCW is the pinnacle of the former's range, powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine which drives all four wheels (hence the car's 'ALL4' badging) through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission dubbed Steptronic. All told, the system serves up 300hp and 400Nm, good enough to see the JCW run 0-100km/h in 5.4 seconds - that's two-tenths quicker than the slightly more powerful Countryman SE electric (which may have 313hp, but is a lot heavier).

The thing is, this latest JCW... isn't as potent as the car it replaces, which had 306hp and 450Nm of torque, and a sub-five-second 0-100km/h time. The reason for the 'loss' of 6hp and 50Nm is because the previous JCW had an eight-speed gearbox (also called Steptronic, though it was a different unit) which was a true torque converter automatic that could manage the higher torque - rather than a dual-clutch unit as is employed now. The seven-speed system in this car has been chosen for reasons of shift speed and greater efficiency, but the result is that if you're after the most rapid Countryman of them all, you need to be looking on the second-hand market.

Of course, only an incredibly small fraction of people will ever put the JCW Countryman through a full-bore standing start to achieve the 5.4-second sprint, so you could say it's irrelevant that this car isn't quite as quick as it once was. And we'd agree to a point, except that the use of those very three hallowed letters in the MINI canon raises the expectation that you're going to be driving something spicy and special. And, sadly, the Countryman JCW 2024 edition just never lives up to that hype.

It's quick, naturally, and deeply assured. With that slick gearbox and the traction advantages of all-wheel drive, you can make the most of the 2.0-litre engine's muscle in most circumstances, without having to wait for turbos to spool up or an age for the drivetrain to join the dots up before it reacts. The handling's also more than decent, with direct, weighty steering, a notable dearth of excessive body lean and plenty of grip in the corners.

Yet the MINI is never particularly tuneful while it is being exerted, even with some rhythmic thudding and rumbling from the exhausts in its sportier settings, and the general feeling is of a refined, heavy vehicle that's rather quick when it needs to be, rather than a raw, visceral scamp punching above its weight. It's never playful, never that exciting.

This correlates to ride quality and interior noise suppression which is largely first rate. Aside from a few occasions of abrupt vertical movements from its necessarily firm suspension and a little too much aero bluster from the base of the windscreen, travelling onboard the Countryman JCW is in the main a very pleasurable experience. It feels capable and composed at all times, with good visibility out in most directions, and pleasing low-speed manners from the drivetrain and major controls. But then, if all you're going to do is drive the JCW around on minimal throttle openings, never enjoying its drivetrain power or enhanced chassis, wouldn't you be better off with a cheaper petrol or electric Countryman model instead?

What you get for your money

The case against the JCW is further compounded by its list price, which is approaching €70,000 in Ireland - when you can get in the basic Countryman C for nearer €40,000. Also, both the electric models of the Countryman are considerably cheaper than the JCW, to the tune of at least €13,000, so it looks like an expensive extravagance in that regard.

As the flagship model, the JCW does come with a generous amount of standard equipment, including many desirable features such as 19-inch alloys, a Harman Kardon sound system, heated seats and steering wheel, adaptive cruise control and more, so it justifies the windscreen sticker in that regard. It's just that the driving experience isn't vivid enough to really make the JCW worth the outlay.


Supremely polished in many disciplines and proudly touting plenty of MINI's aesthetic flair, there's little doubt the new Countryman John Cooper Works ALL4 will win plenty of admirers. For us, it's too expensive to buy and run for what it is - a more grown-up performance car, with little of the edgy thrills you used to get from a MINI JCW - and there are better options elsewhere in the Countryman range, but if you want the model of this crossover with the most badge cred, it'll still be the car for you.


Tech Specs

Model testedMINI Countryman John Cooper Works ALL4
Irish pricingCountryman range from €41,289, John Cooper Works ALL4 from €68,855
Powertrainpetrol engine - 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Transmissionautomatic - seven-speed Steptronic dual-clutch automatic, ALL4 all-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions177g/km
Irish motor tax€600 per annum
Fuel consumption7.8 litres/100km (36.2mpg)
Top speed250km/h
0-100km/h5.4 seconds
Max power300hp at 5,750-6,500rpm
Max torque400Nm at 2,000-4,500rpm
Boot space460 litres rear seats up, 1,450 litres rear seats down
Rivals to the MINI Countryman