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Mini JCW Challenge | Spotted

Why the forgotten fast Mini is just as deserving of your attention as any

By Matt Bird / Tuesday, July 09, 2019

With a new Mini GP on the horizon, focus inevitably turns to the cars which have preceded it. Anyone who's considered either a GP1 or GP2 will know they cling to their value like a boiled sweet to linen, only the leggiest early cars now dipping below £10k. The best GP2 are still for sale at above £20,000, a reflection of the regard in which they're held. Rare, exciting and boisterously good fun, both supercharged and turbocharged GPs quite deservedly have a great reputation amongst those who've driven and owned them. The next car has a lot to live up to...

There's another limited-edition Mini that deserves as much attention, though. The Challenge was launched in 2016, taking parts from the same suppliers used for the Challenge race series: Nitron adjustable dampers, Mintex brakes, Team Dynamics wheels and a Quaife limited-slip differential. Add into that Michelin Cup 2 tyres, one of the most raucous exhausts ever fitted to a hot hatch and a standard six-speed manual (with no auto offered), and all the ingredients were there for a cracking hot hatch.

So it proved, too, the Challenge giving a great account of itself in a damp duel with the Golf Clubsport S at Donington Park. While the VW proved ultimately the better car, that's nothing to be ashamed of - the GTI CS is one of the greatest hot hatches of this century. Instead the Challenge showed off the fact that this F56 generation of Mini could really be a fun and rewarding hot hatch. Where the regular Cooper S could feel podgy and inert, the Challenge was incisive, sharp and precise. Just as importantly it was engaging and entertaining, exhaust crackling and dynamism clear for all to feel. Until this car, the current Mini had come across as a little too staid and serious - the Challenge changed that, and bodes very well for the GP.

Therefore, although it doesn't have the GP cachet, the Challenge deserves to be considered as one of the Mini greats. It's rarer than any GP, too; originally 100 were meant to be made, but now it's commonly believed that only 53 were made for the UK market, a tiny number against the 2,000 global run of each GP.

This Challenge is from early in the run, #6 of 53, and has covered 16,000 miles across two years and two owners. At present, it's the only one currently for sale on PH, at £25,980. No doubt many will see that as prohibitive for a tuned Mini, a paltry £6k of depreciation in 24 months, but as the GPs have proved, the limited run cars do have a knack of retaining their value well. While there are never guarantees about residual values, it'd be a surprise to see the Challenge plummet given it follows a familiar template to the GPs.

As for alternatives, that Golf is still more expensive - this one is £29k with more miles - and, as mentioned, the old GP2 can cost almost £25k still. The Audi A1 quattro is interesting, another limited run hot hatch that looks great and was thoroughly overhauled from standard, but that will cost thousands more for an older and, frankly, less entertaining car.

So while the Challenge may well become even more forgotten about once the new GP arrives, it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. With genuine motorsport influence, a real sense of genuine Mini cheekiness about it and rarity a lot of supercars can't match, it's a far better hot hatch than it's probably known for. Of course something similar could be made for less money, but that's missing the point. The Challenge is a great fast Mini, a point that deserves celebrating more emphatically than it currently is.

1,998cc, four-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 231@5,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 236@1,250-4,800rpm
MPG: 42.2
CO2: 155g/km
First registered: 2017
Recorded mileage: 16,000
Price new: £32,000
Yours for: £25,980


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