If you want fast Autofocus when using Live View, then the Sony models with Live View are your best bet. They can still use their dedicated AF sensor when in Live View mode. On the downside, their viewfinders are smaller because of their Live View Design that incorporates a dedicated Live View sensor in the Viewfinder housing.
This design allows the Live View sensor to see the same thing that would normally be projected to the optical viewfinder when in live view mode. So, Autofocus works the same way in live view mode as it does when using the optical viewfinder.
As for the grip on the Sony models, it sounds like you were probably looking at the newer A230, A330 or A380. These are smaller and lighter cameras compared to other Sony dSLR models, and the grip on them is also relatively small. The older A200, A300 and A350 models are a bit larger cameras.
But, for low light use if you really want Live View (and if not, there are other alternatives), your best bet would be to look at the new A500 or A550 models in the Sony lineup. These are larger than the entry level models with live view (A330, A380), while still giving you fast AF in Live View mode. You'd probably find the grip on them to be more comfortable than the new entry level models. The LCD also tilts on these models. Note that the A550 has a higher resolution LCD compared to the A500.
These new models are going to do much better at higher ISO speeds compared to the entry level Sony models. The A500 (new 12 Megapixel model) isn't shipping yet. But, I'd expect to see it hitting store shelves within the next few weeks (Sonystyle.com is showing Oct 21 as current expected ship date, but they usually have new models earlier than predicted).
The new Sony A500 lists for $749 (body only) or $849 for a kit including a Sony 18-55mm lens.