With thirsty engines, high prices and limited practicality, sports cars typically don’t make great company cars. Despite this, more than three times more business users would opt for one than currently do if given free rein, a recent Lex Autolease survey found.

The new Mazda MX-5, however, manages to tick a number of sports car boxes – punchy petrol motor, rear-wheel drive and a folding soft top – without breaking the bank. Measuring 7cm less than the Mini Five-Door and available from less than £20,000, it’s easy to see the MX-5 as a junior sports car, but it doesn’t skimp on fun thanks to its lightweight frame, which means that even the meagre 160hp motor makes the MX-5 suitably rapid.

Helping to amplify the sports car sensation are seats mounted inches above the floor, a snug cabin, and a folding canvas roof, which lets plenty of engine and road noise in. The motor produces a rorty note, while the sharp steering helps the car dart around corners.

Surprisingly, our test MX-5 proved very frugal too, mostly returning more than 40mpg and hitting 49.4mpg after a 90-mile journey, according to the trip computer. That’s compared with the official 40.9mpg that leads to a high 161g/km emissions figure.

Costing just over £20,000 in SE-L Nav trim, the MX-5 doesn’t have many direct rivals, with just the hard-top Toyota GT86 offering a similar driving experience for under £25,000. A raft of similarly speedy hatchbacks are available though, including the Ford Fiesta ST, Mini Cooper S, Peugeot 208 GTI and VW Polo GTI.

Although these can’t match the MX-5’s old-fashioned wind-in-the-hair driving experience, all bar the GT86 are cheaper to run. The MX-5 weighs in at 54.2p per mile compared with 50.1p for the Mini Cooper S with Media XL pack. A top-spec Fiesta ST, meanwhile, costs 51.1p, with the Peugeot 208 GTI Prestige at 51.5p per mile. Even more affordable, is the VW Polo GTI, at just 47.0p per mile.

The new MX-5 may continue to offer driving thrills that hatchback rivals can’t match, while dramatically undercutting the Toyota GT86; however, with just two seats, a tiny boot and steep running costs, it is hard to recommend for all but perk fleet users.

Mazda MX-5 2.0 160 SE-L Nav

Model price range £18,495-£23,295
Residual value 37.5%
Depreciation £12,785
Fuel £7768
Service, maintenance and repair £2290
Vehicle Excise Duty £540
National Insurance £2456
Cost per mile 54.2p
Fuel consumption 40.9mpg
CO2 (BIK band) 161g/km (27%)
BIK 20/40% per month £92/£184
Warranty 3yrs/60,000mls
Boot space 130 litres
Engine size/power 1998cc/160hp