The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage is unusual among the latest breed of gas-sipping small cars.

There are no fancy tricks employed to hit its 37-40 mpg combined EPA ratings, no turbochargers or hybrid systems. It's simply small, light, aerodynamic and uncomplicated.

Those qualities are also allowing drivers in the real world to hit that 40 mpg figure and more, without resorting to hardcore 'hypermiling' techniques.

Darin Cosgrove, administrator of both the Ecomodder and Mirage Forum internet forums, recently tested both manual and automatic Mirages to determine their real-world economy.

In EPA testing, it's the CVT that's most efficient, delivering that 40 mpg combined figure, with 37 mpg city and 44 mpg highway ratings. The manual car is marginally less frugal, returning 37 mpg combined, with 34 in the city and 42 at highway speeds.

Using nothing more than standard "eco driving" techniques, such as reading the road ahead, maximizing coasting opportunities, upshifting early and driving smoothly, Darin managed to extract 48 mpg from the manual and 42 mpg from the CVT, in a six-mile route around Ottowa.

For a baseline, he used his own Pontiac Firefly--a Geo Metro by another name--around the same route, and calculated its economy.

Importantly, the drive was done at regular traffic speeds, and didn't use any unrealistic hypermiling methods, typically unused by regular drivers. Naturally, it requires a little technique to hit such numbers, but nor is it unrepresentative of regular driving.

MORE: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage: 40-MPG Minicar Gas Mileage Test

It also highlights the differences between the manual and continuously-variable transmissions. In regimented testing, the CVT is the more efficient--but put a skilled driver behind the wheel of a traditional manual and there's still room for improvement.

A quick glance at sites like Fuelly and the EPA's website suggest Mirage owners are also beating official targets, with 41-42 mpg averages and some drivers climbing into the high 40s and low 50s.

And in our own gas mileage test last year, we logged indicated gas mileage in the 43-44 mpg range. In an earlier test in the UK, we managed 39 mpg--without any concession to eco-driving whatsoever.

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage, Quebec City, Sep 2013

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage, Quebec City, Sep 2013

Still, if you do employ real hypermiling techniques, your mileage could be even higher.

Mitsubishi's recent 'Extreme MPG Hypermiling Challenge' pitted three Mirage-driving journalists against each other on a trip from Cypress, California to Las Vegas, Nevada.

The winner clocked an average of 74.1 mpg, with two runners-up managing 68.5 mpg apiece. A few subtle modifications were employed--taping up hood gaps and blocking off sections of the grille, but otherwise the cars were entirely standard.

We don't advocate hardcore hypermiling here, nor taping up important bits of your car, but it's evidence of just how efficient Mitsubishi's latest minicar can be.

It's not perfect, of course--low performance means it's better in the city than it is at highway speeds, while the car's ungainly looks will never cause envy among other drivers.

But with little technique, EPA-beating economy figures appear to be very much within reach.


Follow GreenCarReports on FacebookTwitter and Google+