Mini keeps innovating. One year it’s the Clubman, the uber-cool “storm” door model. The next time around it’s the John Cooper Works model named after the deceased famous racing car guru who with his father founded the Cooper Car Company in 1946.
Available in hardtop, convertible and Clubman models, the 2009 John Cooper Works further advances the Mini, now owned and marketed by BMW. It’s a compact driving machine featuring a 208-horsepower, turbocharged engine and six-speed manual transmission with larger, now standard 17-inch wheels.
The Weekly Driver’s Ratings
How’s 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 148 mph sound to you? Thought so. Enough said. The JWC Mini is driving nirvana.
It’s among the smallest cars in the United States, but the Mini holds the road, steers with precision and stops with confidence, particularly the 17-inch standard wheels for 2009. It all adds up to a lot of fun on the road — in tight city driving and blasting along the freeway.
Cargo Room (5)
It’s not a luxury sedan that can hold several sets of golf clubs. That said, it’s not bad. The rear split seats don’t fold flat, but the overlap shelf easily attaches or detaches and the available cargo room isn’t too limiting for groceries or even a folding bike (mine fit easily).
Critics say the “retro” look of the toggles switches for windows, locks and other functions and the oversized, off-centered speedometer are distractions. I disagree. A driver may be distracted at first getting used to something different. But how much of distraction can a speedometer the size of a dinner plate and easy-to-use toggles really be. Once a new way is mastered, the Mini’s approach is cool and functional.
The designers must have made an agreement to see how much coolness one car can feature. Toggle switches, the oversized speedometer, the hydraulic-style seat adjusters, the push-button controls and even the easy-to-use ball fob attachments on the cargo shelf. It’s all cool and functional.
Front Seats (6)
Comfortable and firm, but restrictive for bigger drivers’ knees because of the wide center console. Manual but efficient seat height adjustment on bot front seats is efficient. Visibility is good, particularly for the car’s size. Headroom and legroom satisfactory.
Fuel Economy (8)
A sports car getting more than 30 mpg on the highway? What’s not to like? One negative: premium fuel is recommended. It’s worth it.
Don’t buy this car if you’re not interested feeling and hearing the ride. It’s not that the engine isn’t quiet. It is for the car type. But on the freeway? The wind and road noise intensifies, and there’s something cool about that.
Rear Seats (3)
Two adults can managed, but it’s not a comfortable or enviable place to spend a lot of time. Space is at a premium and ingress and egress require substantial coordination. The Clubman model has substantially improve rear-seat room.
Ride Quality (4)
The Mini is a sports car with its own style, attitude and an advanced degree of coolness. The ride is choppy and bumps are felt. It’s what every sports car should feel like, right?
Total (60 out of 100)
Class — sports performance.
Primary competition — Mazda MX-5, Scion TC, Pontiac Solstice, Ford Mustang, Volkswagen GTI
Standard equipment/option features — Air conditioning, RDS audio system (six speakers) with AM/FM and CD player CD player reads MP3, cargo area cover/rear parcel shelf, cargo area light, Front seats cigar lighter, clock, delayed/fade courtesy lights, driver front airbag with multi-stage deployment, passenger front airbag with occupant sensors and multi-stage deployment, bucket driver and passenger seat with height adjustment, fog lights, illuminated entry system, front reading lights, front and rear side curtain airbag, front side airbag with occupant sensors, leather covered steering wheel with tilt adjustment and telescopic adjustment, tachometer, illuminated driver and passenger vanity mirror.
Cold weather package ($500) — Power folding mirrors, heated mirrors with washer jets, heated front seats.
Extras — Multi-function steering wheel ($250), black bonnet stripes ($100), Bluetooth and USB/iPod adapter ($500)
For more features, visit: www.miniusa.com.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price — $28,550.00.
Price As Driven — $30,550.00.
Mileage Estimates — 25 mpg (city), 33 mpg (hwy).
Warranty — Bumper-to-bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Corrosion, 12 years/unlimited miles; Free scheduled maintenance, 3 years/36,000 miles; Free roadside assistance, 4 years/50,000 miles.
The Weekly Driver’s final words — There may not be a more fun new car in the price range. And if you’re going to have fun, make it a lot of fun. Get the convertible. When the weather’s right, get in the car, drive and never mention the word “work.”
Article Last Updated: April 21, 2009.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.