Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5

All JCW models uses the same turbocharged 1.6-litre engine with 215bhp and huge reserves of low down pulling power. It's the standard hatchback that is the most popular choice however and it's also the quickest with a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds. The Clubman takes 0.3 seconds longer and the Convertible and the Paceman, with its lowered sports suspension, both take 0.4 seconds longer.

However these figures only tell a small part of the story. Maximum pulling power is available low down the rev range, so the JCW doesn't have to be revved hard to get the most out of it. There's also an overboost function where pulling power can be increased for short bursts - useful for safe overtaking. The car comes with a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox as standard although with such pulling power available, you don't really need to use it that much.

However, part of the fun is the exhaust note which has been tuned to 'crackle' between the gears when shifting up, helping give the car real character.

The MINI's pin-sharp responses translate well to the JCW, with wider tyres increasing grip and an electronic limited slip differential (fitted as standard) to improve traction at the front. It does a good job but you can feel the front tyres tugging from side to side under hard acceleration. However, to be fair there isn't a great deal of fuss. The JCW hangs on limpet-like when cornering and seems unflustered by sudden direction changes.

There are also different levels of electronic stability control - pressing the Dynamic Stability Control button once merely delays when the electronics intervene, while holding it down for five seconds switches off the system entirely. It is also possible to choose sports suspension as an option, with a lower ride height, although the standard set-up feels good enough and ride comfort is more than acceptable.

In fact, we'd say it's better than the Cooper S fitted with optional upgraded alloy wheels. The Clubman version with its longer wheelbase feels a little more composed over bumpy surfaces, but overall, with its longer body and greater kerbweight, isn't quite as agile as the hatchback version.