The 10,000 mile mark is an important one in owning a car. You’re well past any honeymoon period and well on your way in understanding what it’s like to live with. Longterm build quality starts to become apparent and things you might have looked past when new, start to catch your attention. With the five digit mark about to be passed in our 2021 JCW Countryman we’re here to tell you what it’s like to own and live with the ultimate Countryman (and some would say the ultimate MINI).

Before you send the hate mail for even insinuating that the JCW Countryman could be considered the ultimate MINI, let’s explain. We know that look of subtle disdain some of you give the F60 (and the R60 before it). MotoringFile was started in 2002 because the MINI was embraced the opposite of the SUV culture. And now we’re staring at a four door 3,789 lbs MINI in our driveway. But this is a very different kind of small crossover.

JCW Countryman

2021 JCW Countryman – Finally Worthy of the JCW Badge

MINI has taken a forgettable formula in the small crossover and made it rewarding in a way a MINI should be. This is a car that engages you in ways that no small crossover does. It’s not an R53 or even an F56 in disguise. But this truly is the MINI of the small crossover world. Quick turn-in and flat cornering make it all feel immediate where most of the competitive set bounce, roll and flounder. With the JCW specific springs, shocks and sways bars our Countryman feels eager and light on its feet.

Of course it’s not quite as nimble as the 181 lbs lighter JCW Clubman but over 10,000 miles we’ve found what you give up with a bit more weight, you make up for with more space and utility. That hatch, the larger cargo area and even the more versatile rear seats. It all adds up to a car that is more of a Swiss Army knife that ultimately becomes endearing for different reasons.

JCW Countryman

The unsung hero might just be the revised suspension (new for ‘21) and larger brakes that finally make the JCW Countryman live up to the badge. The single-joint spring-strut-type axle for the front wheel and the multi-joint rear axle were redesigned and tailored for JCW with more rigidity and less weight than before. Additionally MINI fitted revised swivel bearings that allow for improved camber values on the front wheels. In total this has improved the transmission of lateral forces in corners through the car and to the driver. In other words, MINI worked hard to bring increased feedback to the driver along with greater levels of performance. It’s worked – to a point. The car is eager at turn-in and balanced at the limit but doesn’t produce the type of feedback that inspires immediate confidence. It’s not totally lacking, but the capabilities are so high that you want for a bit more communication when pushing the JCW.

But the real headline figures are the 306 hp and a staggering 332 ft lbs of torque. Coupled with the Aisin 8 speed automatic and All4, the JCW rips off 0-60 runs around just over four and a half seconds over and over. While the transmission has a tendency to be confused in low speed autocross corners, it’s almost faultless on and off the track. And when pushed hard, this automatic becomes surprisingly effective. While it’s not at the level of the best dual clutch transmissions – especially when it comes to downshifts – it’s surprisingly capable.

JCW Countryman

The result is a car that is seriously quick – especially in the mid-range. Next to the JCW Countryman in the MF garage sits an BMW 1M and Porsche 718 Spyder. The JCW Countryman isn’t that far off of either in the mid-range. If it wasn’t for the weight, it might be surprisingly close.

Could there be improvements? Absolutely. I’d love to see a more aggressive throttle mapping in sport mode and the B48’s inability to rev quickly or produce power at the top-end continues to frustrate. But given what else is out there in this space (for the money) the JCW Countryman delivers performance that is truly worthy of the badge.

2021 MINI JCW Countryman: Design

Where the standard Countryman saw some notable exterior changes for 2021, the JCW sees more subtle styling alterations. The newly designed grille is the most noticeable losing the under-bite design we’ve seen since the car’s introduction in 2010. The overall look is cleaner with less lines and simpler forms – something we’re seeing more and more from MINI.

A barely noticeable change is the front splitter which now is more aggressive and tied in better with the lower grille. That lower grille also sees some subtle updates to better match the new pattern seen in the larger grille above.

The new LED headlamps introduce a new rectangular form to the car for the first time (perhaps in reference to what is to come in 2023). Also seen here is the new black trim is plays on the JCW nicely. 

Around back is more of that piano black trim and the (at times controversial) Union Jack inspired tail-lamps. In an interesting move MINI has added the same webbing pattern found on the front grille on the faux diffuser. Next to that are the enlarged 95 mm tailpipes which deliver one of the better sounding engine notes MINI has ever had.

Infotainment, CarPlay And Touchsceens. 

Big changes in small upgrades here. CarPlay has been a part of MINI for a few years but moving to a version that makes use of the full screen changes the game. And for ‘21 MINI updated the Countryman’s infotainment with faster processing that makes everything all the more responsive. Combine this with the new digital cluster and there’s a real sense of modern tech in a MINI for the first time.

The other big addition is the digital gauge cluster taken from the Mini Cooper SE and JCW GP. Larger and more readable, it’s a huge improvement in our eyes and is surely just the start of digital instrumentation from MINI. In daily use it’s a huge improvement but we’d love to eventually see a free-form display that takes over all instrumentation allowing for even more flexibility. Then there’s the new “black panel” design just below the navigation that is a dust and fingerprint magnet. So much so that we carry one of those microfiber clothes with us everywhere we go.

JCW Countryman Pricing

MINI USA has been very aggressive with pricing for the 2021 model year reducing MSRPs across most models. The outlier is the new Countryman primarily because (you guessed it) it’s new. However the JCW is only up $100 for the year. In our mind that $100 represents a substantial value. From the exterior design changes, the interior refinement, to the suspension and chassis tweaks, the 2021 JCW Countryman looks to be the best crossover MINI has ever produced. 

MINI Countryman / US Pricing 2020 2021 Dif.
Cooper Countryman Oxford Edition$25,900N/AN/A
Cooper Countryman ALL4 Oxford Edition$27,900N/AN/A
Cooper Countryman$28,400$29,100$700
Cooper Countryman ALL4$30,400$31,100$700
Cooper S Countryman$31,900$31,900Same
Cooper S Countryman ALL4$33,900$33,900Same
Cooper SE Countryman ALL4 (PHEV)$40,900$41,500$600
John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4$41,400$41,500$100

Early Conclusions

We’d be the first to admit it’s hard to get excited about small crossovers these days. But throw in 306 hp, a well engineered chassis and massive 16.1″ brakes and you have what feels like a tall hot-hatch. And outside of a fluke software issue that lasted a few miles, it’s been completely faultless in almost 10,000 miles.

In short everything just works. MINI has finally created a car with straight line performance that the JCW badge has always promised combined with an overall driving experience that’s surprisingly rewarding. Inside the infotainment delivers a best in class experience while the interior design and utility make it a great daily driver. In short this a MINI that does it well so well it’s hard to find fault. It may not reward like the smaller, manual JCWs, but it delivers far more.