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buying used

I commute 100 km round-trip every day, and gas is killing me. I want a newer, small reliable car with good fuel economy for around $10,000. Everybody tells me to get an electric but I can’t afford one (or a hybrid). Everybody also tells me to move closer to work and I can’t afford that either. I’m considering a 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage. – Ahmad

Long before EVs and hybrids, folks looking for fuel sippers turned to tiny subcompacts. Now, they’re still some of the least thirsty cars you can get.

If you look at 2015 or older, there are plenty of decent, fuel-efficient choices starting at about $10,000 – including the Chevrolet Spark, Honda Fit, Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Micra and Toyota Yaris.

Here we’ll pit the Mirage against the Fit. The Mirage gets better gas mileage, but the Fit beats it for handling, power, comfort and space.

2015 Honda Fit

The 2015 Honda Fit.

Third generation: 2015-present (facelift for 2018)

Average asking price for base: $9,466 (Canadian Black Book)

Original MSRP, before freight: $14,495

Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder (130 hp)

Transmission/Drive: Six-speed manual, CVT/Front-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.1 city, 6.4 highway (manual); 7.0 city, 5.7 highway (CVT)

You’re not likely to have a fit at the gas station with Honda’s roomy entry-level hatch.

“The fuel economy is the first-best thing about the 2015 Fit, without question.” Globe Drive said. “Over three hours of driving, some in clogged Toronto city traffic, the needle barely moved.”

Redesigned for 2015 with shorter overall length but a longer wheelbase, the Fit got smaller on the outside yet roomier on the inside.

For 2015, there were four trims: DX, LX, EX and EX-L Nav.

Skip the base DX if you want AC or the CVT – it didn’t offer them, although it did come with Bluetooth and a reverse camera. The LX – which came with AC, heated seats, cruise control and an optional CVT – is a better bet.

Consumer Reports liked that the Fit had “lots of space in a small footprint,” a versatile interior, good handling and plenty of standard equipment. But, it griped that the Fit was slow, noisy and hard riding.

It gave the 2015 Fit three out of five for reliability.

There were three recalls, including a fix to a drive pulley shaft that could potentially break while driving and cause the wheels to lock up.

2015 Mitsubishi Mirage

The 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage.

Sixth generation: 2014-present (facelift for 2017)

Average asking price for base: $9,998 (Canadian Black Book)

Original MSRP, before freight: $12,498

Engine: 1.4-litre three-cylinder (74 hp)

Transmission/Drive: Five-speed manual, CVT /Front-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 7.0 city, 5.5 highway (manual); 6.4 city, 5.3 highway (CVT)

For Mitsubishi’s cheapest car, the fuel economy was no Mirage.

“The Mirage didn’t beat its official fuel-consumption numbers, but its measured real-world 5.7 litres/100 km [combined] was still outstanding,” Globe Drive said. “That’s hybrid-like fuel economy for less than half the price of a Toyota Prius ... And while driving it, you can’t see what it looks like.”

Built in Thailand, the 2015 Mirage came in four trims: ES, ES Plus and SE. ES Plus added extras including air conditioning, Bluetooth, keyless entry and power rear windows.

Consumer Reports liked the fuel economy – and that’s about it. It said the Mirage was “perhaps the worst-handling new car on sale,” very loud inside, underpowered and uncomfortable for the driver.

“While subcompacts are usually nimble, the Mirage's handling is so clumsy several testers found it disconcerting,” it said. “On top of that, the interior feels drab, cheap, and insubstantial.”

Consumer Reports has no reliability ratings for the Mirage.

There were three recalls, including a fix to a software glitch that could potentially deactivate the airbags.

Send your used car questions to with the subject: “Buying used.”

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