2023 Mini Cooper S JCW Sport 3-Door review

15 minutes, 11 seconds Read

The Mini Cooper S gets the letter-sport treatment by way of JCW. It’s cool but pricey, making us wonder if $60K could be better spent elsewhere.


What we love
  • JCW Sport package looks great
  • Nearly 60 paint configuration options!
  • Still a thoroughly entertaining little car

What we don’t
  • Automatic not as brisk as it really should be
  • Interior feels a bit dated now despite a recent update
  • Golly, it is expensive

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2023 Mini Cooper S JCW Sport 3-Door

The alphabet is a magic pudding provider of naming and branding opportunities for the automotive world. Boardroom marketeers across the globe can simply spin the 26-character wheel and throw on the word ‘Sport’, ‘Design’ or ‘Line’ to create a whole new ‘Sport Design Line’ of product capability.

The Europeans are experts in this space, with BMW M Sport, Mercedes-Benz AMG Line, Volkswagen R-Line, Volvo R-Design and Audi S Line but a few of the sporty by name though not always by nature badging options.

Hyundai has N Line, Lexus has F Sport, and now Mini has joined the game by taking its famous John Cooper Works performance arm and diluting it to a ‘JCW Sport’ appearance package.

This makes our 2023 Mini Cooper S JCW Sport a sportier-looking Cooper S but not a fully-fledged JCW model, very much in the same way that Mini’s parent BMW applies M Sport as a trim grade below a full-tilt M car.

In a way, the JCW Sport line simplifies the Mini Cooper S line-up, as buyers can now choose from a predefined Classic, Mini Yours, JCW Sport or Resolute as a styling base, rather than wading through a zillion options to create a wholly customised car as they used to do.

But while alphabetised badge upgrades offer some sporty appeal, they tend to add cost rather than performance, leaving buyers to wonder if a more personalised statement is ultimately worth the spend.

How much does the Mini Cooper S cost in Australia?

The 2023 Mini Cooper S JCW Sport 3-Door is priced from $55,400 before options and on-road costs, and has an estimated drive-away price in Victoria of $59,739.

If you want the added functionality of the longer-wheelbase Cooper S five-door hatch, you can add another $1925 to the total for $57,325 before on-roads.

In terms of range positioning, the ‘regular’ Cooper S Classic 3-Door, which shares the same 141kW/280Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, starts from $49,300 ($6100 less), but the punchier 170kW/320Nm Cooper JCW Essential starts from $59,250 ($3850 more).

You do get a bit of gear in the JCW Sport, with a panoramic sunroof, 17-inch wheels, unique body styling, adaptive suspension and a head-up display all included.

The unique JCW Sport front bumper ditches the colour-coded panel of the regular Cooper and replaces it with a faux-mesh texture, making the new car look more like the old car, which in my opinion isn’t a bad thing.

There are eight colour choices (ours is Island Blue), an option of colouring the roof and mirrors black, white or body-coloured, plus a stripe kit all available at no cost, which we have to admit is a refreshing change.

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Mini states there are a staggering 58 variations available, which means you’re sure to find one that works for you.

To contextualise all this, you can get a less-sporty-looking and lower-spec Cooper S with the same power (and up to 34 colour variations) for six grand less, which is arguably a more sensible decision.

For the same budget, you could land a more powerful 180kW Cupra Leon VZ or Volkswagen Golf GTI, a fully-electric Cupra Born, or even the ludicrous 320kW MG 4 XPower EV.

None of these are a Mini, though, and if you’re drawn to the undeniable charm of the cheery-faced icon (as I was back in 2016), then why not? You only live once!

Key details 2023 Mini Cooper S JCW Sport 3-Door
Price $55,400 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Island Blue
Options Jet Black roof and mirror caps – No cost
Black bonnet stripes – No cost
Drive-away price $59,739 (estimated in Victoria)
Rivals Cupra Leon VZ | Volkswagen Golf GTI | MG 4 XPower

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How much space does the Mini Cooper S have inside?

How many people do you need to fit in your Mini? If your answer is less than three, then read on. Any more and you really do need to reconsider.

The back seats are tight and hard to access. Fitting a booster, let alone a child seat, is a chore. So if you’ve got children who will sometimes travel in the back, you had better hope they have no basketball-playing genealogical aspirations.

The boot is small too. The Mini badge is used with no sense of irony at all.

Sure, you’ll fit the shopping or a backpack, but don’t buy a Cooper looking for a practical multi-tool and you’ll manage fine. The 211-litre space includes a removable floor to hide regular items or fit larger ones, but you can always fold the rear seats should you need to carry something a bit bigger.

As a one or two-person urban runabout, though, a three-door Cooper makes more sense than you’d think.

The head room and shoulder space up front are great. The materials are high quality and the car is well put together. While paying $60K for a zippy urbaner may seem like a frivolous expenditure, the JCW Sport trim and elements around the cabin do make this Cooper feel a bit special and solidly premium.

That said, there are no power seats or even a heating option. Power we can abide by, but the lack of seat heating is a misstep at this price point.

The updated interior, which traded the circular analogue speedometer for a digital one and added lashings of shiny black bits, helps the car look slicker, but it’s still largely the same as when this third-generation BMW-Mini launched a decade ago, and feeling it.

Case in point, the phone holder in the central armrest can’t fit even a smaller-sized modern iPhone with a slim cover on it. If you’re a big phone fan, forget it.

A new-generation car arrives next year and promises a much-needed interior review, but it does look like it will transition to a far more modern screen-and-touch-based world rather than keeping the fun toggles and dials of this car. So if you like the tactile Mini-ness that has persisted thus far, maybe grab one while you can!

2023 Mini Cooper S JCW Sport 3-Door
Seats Four
Boot volume 211L seats up
731L seats folded
Length 3876mm
Width 1727mm
Height 1414mm
Wheelbase 2495mm

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Does the Mini Cooper S have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

The 8.8-inch rectangular screen, housed in the circular binnacle (that now features a strange, light-up barcode-like motif on the edges) is a familiar Mini hallmark.

The updated menus and graphical interface help keep the system feeling modern, and there is support for wireless Apple Carplay and tethered Android Auto as standard. You also have access to the Mini Connect telemetry system, which enables you to connect and communicate with the car from your phone.

It’s an easy system to use, with a note that the new chrome ring around the binnacle reflects the illumination of the buttons, so it can be tricky when on the move to tap the right place and not the reflection.

All the fun Mini functions are there, like the ‘maximum Go-Kart mode’ when you flip the Sport toggle and the energy-minimiser game with Gary the fish.

We would argue that the colour palette isn’t as slick as the similar implementation on the BMW software, but all the features work well and the interface is largely intuitive enough to become familiar with quickly.

The new 5.5-inch dashboard display is also clear and reasonably easy to use, although you can only display one secondary data point at any one time. This is more a personal bugbear of mine rather than a shortcoming, but Mini has opted to hide traditional dials on each side of a small trip computer display rather than implementing a true digital instrument cluster.

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Is the Mini Cooper S a safe car?

The third-generation Mini Cooper was originally tested in 2014, but that rating (four stars) expired at the end of 2022, so the Cooper is currently unrated.

Then, the car scored well on the frontal offset collision test (91 per cent) and reasonably on the side impact test (76 per cent). Because ANCAP crash test criteria are updates on an ongoing basis, it’s not possible to compare the Mini’s 2014 result with a contemporary crash test (and safety assist) equivalent.

2023 Mini Cooper S JCW Sport 3-Door
ANCAP rating Unrated
Safety report Link to ANCAP report
(pre-facelift with four stars tested 2014)

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What safety technology does the Mini Cooper S have?

You’ll find six airbags, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), and a back-to-base SOS call system that contacts emergency services in the event of an accident.

The lane-departure warning system is unobtrusive, but our test drive was largely conducted around town, so we didn’t put this or the adaptive cruise control function through a rigorous field test. The head-up display is a welcome addition for taller drivers, though.

There is a rear camera but no fancy 360-degree functions or blind-spot indicators. This is a decade-old platform and it shows it here.

How much does the Mini Cooper S cost to maintain?

Mini buyers can opt for a $2020 five-year basic service plan (averaging out to $404 per year) that covers all regular intervals for fluids and filters, but not brakes or wipers. These can be added separately.

Insurance for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW, has an estimate of $1361 per year for comprehensive cover. This means the Cooper S JCW Sport will cost about $150 per month just to own, before fuel or any finance costs. Note that insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.

At a glance 2023 Mini Cooper S JCW Sport 3-Door
Warranty Five years, unlimited km
Service intervals Condition-based
Servicing costs $2020 (5 years)

Is the Mini Cooper S fuel-efficient?

Mini claims a reasonable 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres on a combined cycle for the little turbo Cooper. While the urban claim steps up to 7.3L/100km, I have to admit I never saw close to either of those.

Enjoying but not thrashing the sporty Cooper S had a predominantly urban test returning 9.1L/100km. Maybe the car was new, maybe I enjoyed the torquey response, maybe fuel consumption was not my priority.

I’d suggest that if a more frugal experience is on your wish list, you pop down a rung to the non-S Cooper and its little three-cylinder engine, or slip over to electric-town in the Cooper SE. A Cooper S may be small and technically frugal, but it’s never been the reason for choosing one!

Fuel Useage Fuel Stats
Fuel cons. (claimed) 5.8L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 9.1L/100km
Fuel type 95-octane premium unleaded
Fuel tank size 44L

What is the Mini Cooper S like to drive?

If you’ve never driven this or any previous generation of the BMW-Mini, can I suggest you pop it on your bucket list as something to do before you can’t get cars like this anymore.

Depress the bright red start-paddle to fire it up, flip a toggle to activate Sport mode, enjoy the mixture of actual and artificial exhaust burble, and get ready to smile.

We go on quite a bit about how much fun a Cooper S can be, but there is really no other word for it. This has been, and still is, a tremendously fun car.

Perhaps the diminutive size and wheel-at-each-corner stance of the Mini give you a sense of the impossibly low centre of gravity and stability. Perhaps the weighted but accurate steering makes you feel you’re in a sportier car than you really are. Whatever the situational rationalisation you make, driving a little Cooper is a blast.

The 141kW/280Nm output of the little B48 engine isn’t massive, but the response is near instant (peak of 280Nm between 1350 and 4600rpm) giving you a real taste of urgency off the line. It feels punchy enough, all the time, and for an urban runabout that’s really all you can ask!

Take care, though, as wet roads, slick tram tracks, or even tighter corners can trigger the traction control systems. Even skirting the edge of the orange light, you’ll feel the steering wheel tug as the little eight-inch-wide front tyres (205/45 R17) try their best to get power to the ground.

It may not be the last word in technological prowess or performance refinement, but it certainly makes you feel like you are part of the equation. Wherever the Mini goes, you go. A symbiotic connection that makes the whole decision to buy such a personal car make more sense the more you drive.

Under power, or through tighter sections, the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission can strangely feel a bit slow to react. This is heightened when shifting down under braking.

Again, perhaps this is an assessment born of a desire for an even sportier mechanical connection to go with the JCW branding. The Mini sucks you into its fun little world, but with a lack of a manual option now, it would have been nice to see at least a sportier tune filter its way into the automatic.

That said, when you are simply zipping about town, the car is very easy to drive and the transmission is certainly smooth enough. The ride, too, on 17-inch wheels, is firm and sporty but comfortable with that inherent sense of stability.

Likeable to the end, the Cooper S JCW Sport may be getting on, but it will keep you smiling.

Key details 2023 Mini Cooper S JCW Sport 3-Door
Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Power 141kW @ 5000-6000rpm
Torque 280Nm @ 1350–4600rpm
Drive type Front-wheel drive
Transmission Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Power-to-weight ratio 115kW/t
Weight (kerb) 1225kg
Turning circle 10.8m

Should I buy a Mini Cooper S?

The Mini Cooper has always made a personal and fashionable statement for those who choose to drive them, and the 2023 Mini Cooper S JCW Sport is no exception.

Like the other alphabet-line badges, the JCW Sport provides a sense of sporty appeal without asking owners to lean all the way into the John Cooper Works universe. And with the range of colourways available, it makes an already personal and fashionable decision decidedly more so.

Given the compromises in size and functionality, a three-door Cooper is unashamedly a personal car, and it is here that the JCW Sport works best. This is a car that says what you want it to, just like a pair of sneakers – only just a little bit bigger.

As the last hurrah for this third-generation Cooper, it does feel nicely presented and characterfully resolved, but remains a heart-based purchase, especially in the company of more modern or focused peers.

Despite trading on an abundance of character, torque steer under throttle, passive gear changes and cold seats on a winter’s day don’t really cut it nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century. Think of it as a much-loved sporting or media personality that has been around for a while, who everyone seems to still like, but no one quite knows why.

It isn’t cheap, it doesn’t have every feature, and it isn’t quite as performance-oriented as the badging would suggest, but it’s fun, stylish, and then fun again. Don’t pretend you are making a sensible choice with a sporty-look Mini and you won’t be disappointed!

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How do I buy a Mini Cooper S – next steps?

The three main trim grades of Classic, Yours and JCW Sport are available to order up until the end of the year, but the special ‘Resolute’ edition expires at the end of October.

Mini Australia notes that the time from order to delivery is about three months, which isn’t too bad considering the level of personalisation available, and that there is stock on the ground if you don’t mind seeing what is already available.

You can play with the configurator on the Mini Australia website to get things just right, or contact your local Mini dealer to arrange a test drive and either place an order or see what it currently has available. You can also find Minis for sale at Drive.com.au/cars-for-sale.

As funky as the JCW Sport is, we’d still look at the regular Cooper S Classic for a slightly less frills but just as fun approach to Mini life. Pop us down for a Chili Red one with a white roof and stripes.

If you want to stay updated with everything that’s happened to this car since our review, you’ll find all the latest news here.

Ratings Breakdown

2023 MINI Hatch Cooper S JCW Sport Hatchback

7.3/ 10


Safety Technology

Ride Quality

Infotainment & Connectivity

Handling & Dynamics

Energy Efficiency

Driver Technology

Value for Money

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Fit for Purpose

James has been part of the digital publishing landscape in Australia since 2002 and has worked within the automotive industry since 2007. He joined CarAdvice in 2013, left in 2017 to work with BMW and then returned at the end of 2019 to spearhead the content direction of Drive.

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