I have driven Alfa Romeos for at least the last 10 years and I love them. There is a magical quality about them but they are also flawed in some ways.
Recently, my wife had an operation and spent a week in hospital. The journey home was excruciating for her when I picked her up in my pride and joy with 19-inch low profile wheels and rock hard suspension. She vowed never to get in that car again.
Time to look for a replacement!
I wanted a little more room and a little more comfort and a bit more modern media technology.
I found myself looking at a Hyundai Sonata Active that had only done 5000km so was 'as new'.
The first thing that struck me about it was how big it was inside. It looks (and is) very spacious and comfortable. Even externally it looks quite largish and it had me wondering if it really is a mid-size car. Not only is it spacious internally but you also get a huge boot area. So, first impression was good in the comfort and utility stakes. I took it for a spin.
To my surprise, the ride was great. Without doubt my Alfa was superior in terms of road holding but this wasn't bad at all, and, it did it while being very quiet and without jarring your teeth fillings loose. Actually, the ride is very smooth on the less than ideal roads we have around where I live.
So, this car needed a more thorough once over. Looks wise it is clean and sleek and looks a bit like a hatchback with the sloping rear window and boot. It is however a sedan. It has chrome accents on a deep metallic red and looks quite smart.
Inside the dash layout and centre cluster are simple, easy to use and good looking. Gets a big tick there in my book. I am not a fan of huge fingerprint smudged displays. This has a 5.0-inch display with tactile buttons on the sides, looks good and does the job; another plus.
The car has rear-view camera and rear parking sensors as well as Bluetooth, aux and USB connectivity. It also has plenty of storage spaces. However, it misses out on satellite navigation... that's a minus.
It does not have the fancy high tech features like radar cruise control, lane departure warning, and autonomous emergency braking. I don't actually consider missing out on those features as a minus. If you want all the latest gadgetry just for the sake of having the latest gadgetry, then with this car you miss out.
To say I was impressed by how easy it was to set up Bluetooth is an understatement. Pairing a phone and streaming music was effortless. Having said that, the audio system while good (and loud if you want it to be) is not quite the premium grade I have been used to.
I have already mentioned how good the ride is and the performance isn't bad either. It isn't a fast car by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn't feel like it's lacking power either. The gearbox is smooth and seems to suitably find the right gear to be in although my preference would be for it to change down a cog a little sooner on approach to a corner (my Alfa did that!).
Switching the lever to manual mode allows you to flick through the cogs yourself and is fairly instantaneous unlike my wife's Mazda 3 that seems to think about it first and wonder whether you actually wanted a gear change.
Another (huge) plus in my book is the manual climate control. I have had three previous cars with automatic climate control and hated it. I want to decide when warm air is directed to my face, not leave it to a computer.
I was in the market for a more practical and comfortable car than I had been driving and it's fair to say this car won me over. It is undoubtedly is an easy car to live with and can also be rewarding when driven with gusto. So for me, I won't say best of both worlds, but pretty damn good at the comfort and at the sporty stuff.
I can't talk about reliability because I only just bought the car, but it does still have about four years to run on its new car warranty.
One complaint I have though, not just with this car but with many new cars as a Google search quickly confirms. The headrests! I think it's due to ensuring compliance with safety regulations, but the manufacturers have designed them protruding too far forward. With the headrest in the most rearward position it was still pressing against the back of my head.
On a quick test drive I didn't notice it, but on a longer drive and when living with it, you literally get a pain in the neck. I have solved this by using seat covers with bolstered lumbar and upper back support giving the effect of sitting a little further forward relative to the headrest.