7/5/2019 | 3 MINUTE READ

MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop Knights Edition

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A special edition of what is arguably a special car because this is a vehicle for people who like to drive and it seems most people now just like to carry stuff in their vehicles and the driving is but a means to an end.

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People no longer buy small cars. People no longer buy vehicles with just two doors. Sure, there are exceptions to these. But not many. All the rage is in the light-truck range, be it something with a literal box on the back or something that has a high H-point so as to provide the driver with what is considered to be a “command” seating position.

MINI JCW Knights

The John Cooper Works Knights Edition. Looks special. (all images: MINI)

 

And because of those things, vehicles that are encompassed by the MINI brand don’t do particularly well in the U.S. market. For the first half of 2019 MINI sold just 17,583 vehicles in the U.S. Yes, with models like the Clubman and the Countryman there is another set of doors. And yes, these vehicles are marginally bigger than the MINI Hardtop, the vehicle from whence these are fundamentally derived, but still smaller than your run-of-the-mill compact sport utility. Even if we look at the popularity of a small crossover in the U.S. market that is in the premium niche, meaning a Buick, know that there were 48,897 Encores sold in the first half.

And that word “utility” is something that is rather mystifying in the context of the use that many vehicles that carry that word directly or by implication in their categorization. Arguably there aren’t a whole lot of car-based elevated people carriers are all that utile in comparison to the cars that they’re based on. What’s more, I suspect that there aren’t a whole lot of people who show up to showrooms with a tape measure to calculate the cubic dimensions of the cargo area, which is certainly one signifier of utility, isn’t it? And further, there are a huge number of so-called utilities that are, like the donor cars, that are simply front-drive setups, so we’re not going to have “utility” in the context of being able to negotiate much more than gravel roads.

But let’s face it: the utility of a MINI is marginal. But the driveability is maximal. No, its not the fastest on the road. But you’d be hard pressed to find more pure driving enjoyment, even if you’re just driving to work and are stuck in the slog on a freeway (after all, you can more quickly zip to the next lane thanks to the magnificent maneuverability.)

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The MINI John Cooper Works Knights Edition is based on a MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop. It is a special edition. It has lots of black and silver surfaces, inside and out. It is said to be the first MINI to use Piano Black (e.g., exterior trim, door handles, fuel-filler cap). Who knew? But what I do know is that while driving the vehicle I got more nods of approval from other drivers than any car I’ve been in (and I honestly don’t think that I’ve ever gotten said nod while behind the wheel of an SUV large or small).

MINI JCW

Standing still, but ready to dart.

 

The car features a 228-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that’s mated to an eight-speed automatic with shift-paddles because this is a John Cooper Works vehicle (John Cooper and his father, Charles, established the Cooper Car Company, which built race cars, and John Cooper raced, as well. The British Motor Corporation Mini was developed, and eventually, after BMW bought MINI, the “John Cooper Works” name was licensed to the company for the higher-performance versions of the vehicles).

The car is said to be capable of going from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, which is quick, not fast, which doesn’t mean that it is slow but is in keeping with its overall controlled maneuverability.

The car is chock full of creature comforts like nicely bolstered front seats that a clad in a combination of cloth and a suede-like material; touchscreen navigation in the giant circular display in the center of the IP; a Harman Karon audio system; a head-up display; panoramic moonroof, and more.

It doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of cargo capacity: with the rear seats in seating position (although it is said to seat four, Hobbits come to mind for rear passengers), there is just 8.7 cubic-feet of available space for stuff, a figure that may be meaningless on its own, so just think of the vehicle is being woefully inadequate for a Costco run.

You’ll have a blast getting there, but one multipack of paper towel is going to do it in.

But it is not about what you can put into the MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop Knights Edition, but the enjoyment you can get out of it.

MINI JCW

Note the attention to detail: the Union Jack in the taillamp.

 

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