Peugeot's 1.2-litre versions of the 3008 and 5008 deliver decent driveability despite their smaller engines
French fare with flair Peugeot's 5008 1.2 (above) has many amenities, including wireless phone charging, electric parking brakes and infotainment touchscreen with plenty of connectivity, like the 3008. And it carries two more passengers than the 3008. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Would folks who say that good things come in small packages choose a single scoop of Haagen-Dazs ice cream when they can have two? Would they pick a 21-inch TV over a 48-inch one? And would they refuse an upgrade to a suite at the Four Seasons?

Clearly, no one in their right mind would. Because when compared with the upsized option, the diminutive choice just does not make sense.

Yet, when it comes to cars and the size of their engines, there is a tendency among Singaporeans to go small. Firstly, the car tax structure here penalises displacement (and power). Secondly, turbocharging has made downsizing relatively painless.

Peugeot's 1.2-litre variants to its 3008 and 5008 are a case in point. While it is clear both cars are best with 1.6-litre engines - either diesel or petrol - the smaller options which just landed are far from shoddy.

They are, in fact, still surprisingly driveable. Especially the 5008, which not only carries two more passengers than the 3008, but also has a kerb weight which is equivalent to an additional child occupant.

Despite that, the car displays only a trace of reluctance when called upon to accelerate quickly. Driven with no particular urgency, it comes across as pleasantly smooth and compliant.

It will not win any drag races, of course. Zero to 100 takes a leisurely 11.9 seconds - 0.6 seconds slower than the 3008 1.2's already unhurried century sprint. And both cars share an identical top speed of 188kmh.

The 1.6-litre versions of the 3008 and 5008 clock the dash in 8.9 and 9.2 seconds respectively. And they peak at 206kmh.

Yet, the 1.2-litre three-cylinder power plant in the two crossovers delivers a decent level of performance and refinement. Much of this boils down to its admirable availability of torque.

At 230Nm, the peak pulling power is merely 10Nm or 4 per cent off the 1.6-litre's output. This peak torque is available from 1,750rpm - not far from the 1.6-litre's 1,400rpm.

This is what gives the impression of responsiveness.

Other attributes of the Peugeot duo contribute to the positive impression. These include a smooth six-speed transmission from Japanese components maker Aisin.

More crucially, the 3008 and 5008 share an absolutely amazing chassis. It delivers superb handling and an unmatched ride quality. And it keeps bad vibrations completely out of the cabin. Rutty roads are not an issue with either car.

This remarkable refinement - which may be down to tuning and insulation - sets the two Pugs apart from others. The Opel Grandland X, for instance, shares the same drivetrain as the French cars, but is nowhere near as smooth or refined.

And, because of that, the Opel, which is actually a bit quicker to 100kmh, comes across as less responsive and driveable.

The 3008 and 5008 1.2 are not as well-equipped as their 1.6-litre twins. No memory seats, no head-up display, no full LED headlights.

But there are still plenty of useful amenities onboard to keep many buyers happy. These include cruise control, wireless phone charging, electric parking brakes, 180-degree reverse camera, configurable virtual cockpit and infotainment touchscreen with plenty of connectivity.

The cars are also a tad lighter, slightly more fuel efficient and attract less road tax than their 1.6-litre equivalents. And they are also less expensive - largely on account of their neutral emission banding (versus the 1.6's $10,000 surcharge).

At the end of the day, that might just be the thing which makes these small-engined packages as alluring as their bigger capacity siblings.