When my 1989 4-cylinder Chevy S-10 pickup truck finally died I went looking for a car better suited to a 65 mile (each way) daily commute on Indiana's part I-65. Great gas mileage, good value, and good reliability were the main factors in deciding which car to get. The high MPG used cars I looked at were either over-priced (like a 15 year old Geo Metro for $4000) or had serious mechanical issues, so a new car was the way to go.
The Chevy Spark and the Mirage DE were the key contenders with the Nissan Versa being quickly knocked out at 36 MPG highway and only a 60k power train warranty. Hybrids were also out with their ~50% higher price tags (Prius C) and only marginally better highway mileage.
While the Spark has better interior/exterior styling and handles a wee bit better on the highway, those factors didn't trump the better mileage and comfort features (climate control, stereo with a USB connection so I can listen to audiobooks, etc.) of the Mirage.
Despite the 74 horsepower engine, the manual transmission Mirage has plenty of power and acceleration to get up to highway speeds (60-75 MPH) in the length of an on-ramp. Compared to the old 92 horsepower truck, the featherweight Mirage feels like a sports car and if the even smaller 1.0l engine was available in the states, that's the one I would choose.
Doing around 60 MPH seven car lengths behind an 18-wheeler, the Mirage engine is pegged at right around 3000 RPM and over the course of the 65 mile commute the average MPG of the trip slowly rises to between 48 and 52. Even without a using an 18-wheel wind-break, the aerodynamic shape lets the car get 45+ MPG at 60. Bumping the speed up closer to 70 causes the mileage to drop to around the EPA rated 42 MPG. With a top speed around 100, I didn't get this car expecting to be hanging out all day in the far left lane.
As others have pointed out, the suspension on the Mirage is rather soft which makes the car seem a bit wobbly sometimes. The Mirage is not the car I would want for zipping along the curvy Mulholland Drive, but it is just fine for a straight and boring drive on the interstate. One nice thing about the soft suspension is that this car takes potholes like a champ.
At highway speeds, the interior of the Mirage seemed a bit louder than the Spark, but the road noise wasn't enough to hinder listening to the radio or generally talking on the phone. If I were to be doing a bunch of business conference calls while in the car, I'd probably spend $15 and get a cell phone headset to counter-act the road noise. But, to be fair, I'd also get a headset for doing those calls in a Chevy Spark.
Although the interior styling is reminiscent of the 90s, the interior of the car is quite functional for commuting. The seats are comfortable enough to sit in for an hour or two and the automatic climate control works well. Three cup holders surround the stick-shift and each of the front doors has a sizable storage bin. With all those places to keep stuff, it's easy to grab something without taking your eyes off the road. The USB port is nice feature for listening to audiobooks on a long and boring commute. Unlike the Spark, the Mirage has power side mirrors which comes in quite handy when you're cruising down the road and realize that one of the mirror housings got rotated a bit.
The manual transmission works fine and the shifts are smooth enough. However, there's not much shifting on the highway. It would have been nice if 5th gear was set a little bit higher to make the highway mileage EPA ratings the same for the manual as the CVT. At around 40 miles an hour, going from 4th to 5th gear only drops the engine a couple hundred RPM so it seems like there is room for improvement.