When it comes to getting the highest fuel efficiency, there's something to be said about buying the smallest car possible, and driving it with care.

That alone can yield impressive savings when trading down from a bigger car--and without making the jump to a hybrid.

It can also lead to greater overall savings, because it means avoiding a hybrid's typical price premium.

DON'T MISS: Why One Young Woman Bought A 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage: Frugal Shopping (Jun 2014)

Now, it seems more new car buyers than expected are doing that math.

Sales of the little 40-mpg Mitsubishi Mirage minicar are exceeding the manufacturer's expectations--and even beating a few hybrid models in the process.

Mitsubishi sold 1,863 of the hatchbacks in February, setting a new record for the model.

2015 Mitsubishi Mirage

2015 Mitsubishi Mirage

That may not seem like a lot, but it was enough to beat the 1,850 sales logged by the largest of the four Prius models, the 42-mpg Prius V wagon.

It also exceeded the 1,376 sales racked up by the Ford C-Max compact tall hatchback.

February was the second month in the row of record sales for the Mirage, beating January's total by 158 units.

MORE: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage Six-Month Update: Great MPG, Great Fun

There was another big leap to 2,488 units in March--representing a 66-percent year-over-year increase.

Note that those are still small numbers compared to big names like the Toyota Corolla or Honda Accord, or even rival small cars.

The Ford Fiesta tallied 4,948 sales in March, while the Chevrolet Spark boasted 3,260 sales.

2015 Mitsubishi Mirage

2015 Mitsubishi Mirage

And those figures represent declines of 24.9 percent for the Ford over the same month last year, and 36.3 percent for the Chevy (which will be replaced with an all-new model for 2016).

Still, in Mitsubishi's current market position as a mainstream-priced-but low-volume brand, the Mirage qualifies as something of a hit.

ALSO SEE: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage Gas Mileage: Real-World 40 MPG-Plus Possible, Owners Say (Mar 2014)

At a launch event back in late 2013, Mitsubishi said it hoped to sell 8,000 Mirages a year.

In the first three months of 2015, it's already sold 6,056--meaning it could easily double, perhaps even triple, that goal before the end of the year.

[hat tip: John C. Briggs]


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