2017 Mini John Cooper Works Challenge First Drive

The ultimate iteration of the current generation of Mini Hatch, the John Cooper Works (JCW) Challenge is a limited-edition version of the already-pretty-special 231hp 'standard' JCW. Fitted with a load of hardcore driving enthusiast parts, it is supposed to be the ultimate Mini for track work – yet retaining a veneer of civility for road use.

2017 Mini JCW Challenge First Drive
2017 Mini JCW Challenge First Drive

It’s sold only as a three-door and it is incredibly expensive, with a starting price of £32,000 (the JCW starts from £23,780), but as this sort of minimal production run car (just 100 Challenges have been built, all for the UK market) is a sound investment, perhaps the Challenge’s unique blend of talents is worth shelling out for.

The Challenge sits at the top of a wide variety of performance-oriented Mini models. The Hatchback alone (excluding the diesels, including the potent Cooper SD) has the Cooper S, the new Cooper S Works 210 and the JCW. But there are JCW versions of the Convertible, Clubman, and Countryman, as well as Cooper S variants too. With the Cooper S Five-Door also on stream, that makes for 11 hot models already, which is certainly plenty of choice for the Mini aficionado.

First impressions

Aside from its unique White Silver metallic paint with contrast black roof, twin racing stripes and build-plaque numbering on the side indicators, and of course the black alloys (we’ll come back to those), then the Challenge looks much like a JCW. No bad thing, as the JCW is a great-looking hot hatch and there’s plenty of intent a...