The MINI John Cooper Works has gone through its mid-cycle refresh - beyond cosmetic changes to the car, this hot hatch now also gets an eight-speed Steptronic transmission (two more gears than before). The gearbox offers quicker and smoother shifts, while the additional gears also means that cruising at high speeds is more comfortable than before.

Power comes from the familiar 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that pushes out 228bhp. This MINI also retains its 'hatchback on steroids' character, with blistering pace, kart-like handling and a generally playful nature.
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I owned a clubman S and decided to give this clubman JCW a try. Your life will be lighten up from the moment you turn on... -  Read More
This year's Hot Hatch category sees the MINI John Cooper Works fend off some fierce competition in the form of Renault's Megane RS and Hyundai's i30 N. While both the aforementioned cars are great cars in their own way, the MINI managed to charm us more with its playful and cheery character.

Being smaller in size, the JCW is easier to place on the road than its rivals. But, that doesn't mean that it is boring to drive. With an urgent 2.0-litre turbocharged engine in the front, a displacement that is rare in a supermini amid today's downsizing trend, the car feels genuinely brisk and can keep up with all but the fastest of hot hatches on our roads.

Now blessed with a new eight-speed automatic transmission, gear shifts are also quicker and smoother than before. And when it is time to wind it down a little bit, the car can mimic a larger car with the tallest gear ratio calming the energetic car down.

In the corners, the car remains an absolute hoot to drive. Like all proper hot hatches, you can tailor its angle of attack by lifting off midway into the turn and exiting with some throttle to point it where you want to go. Drive it neatly, the car resists understeer well and carry lots of speed too. Braking power is also stellar thanks to the four-pot Brembos upfront that resist fade well when used on the street.

Ticking all the boxes required for a hot hatch, the good-looking MINI John Cooper Works is well-deserving winner this year.