On Friday, December 17, automotive expert, Brian Moody and his wife packed up the luggage, two kids, snacks and booster seats for a chilly, three day, 1,100 mile trip starting at Ford’s World Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan and ending at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Follow the Moody family as they put things like seat comfort, rear seat space, fuel economy and even the sound system to the ultimate test.

Shopping for a new car can force you to overlook a lot of little things. Things like reliability, resale value and even the number of prior recalls aren’t as sexy as 18-inch wheels and name brand audio systems but they’re certainly important. Likewise, the little things inside a given car are easy to overlook and it’s easy to assume that every car has the same set-up.

Here are a few examples from our Ford Fusion SEL that might not seem important at first, but have been invaluable on this long trip. A fold down rear seat armrest with built in cupholders isn’t a deal breaker when looking at a new family sedan but the Fusion has them. After three straight days on the road with two kids in the back seat, the ability to simply hand a child a drink and have them be able to store it WITHOUT YOUR HELP is quite a big deal. The same goes for built-in storage pockets in the doors. The Fusion has them in the front but not in the back.

Also, steering wheel mounted audio controls are a big deal. After about two hours of straight driving, you start getting bored with your own iPod and even your favorite satellite radio stations, being able to switch channels and even audio sources without having to take your eyes off the road, is another win for the Fusion. In a perfect world, those buttons would be a little bigger, but they do work well.

Automatic and dual zone climate control is another feature that most commuters could probably live without but if you do family trips by car, you’ll want it. When we left Michigan, it was 16 degrees and snowing. Setting the automatic climate control to 67 meant the heater kicked in full force. As we drove south, the weather got warmer but we never had to mess with the climate control except to move it up or down a degree or two. By the time we got to Florida, it was 73 degrees and sunny, so the A/C automatically blew a low speed cool breeze.

The Ford Fusion is a great looking car and that’s what will likely draw many shoppers to it, and it also includes many of the little things that really matter. Years after the initial showroom experience has faded and real life sets in, you may be sorry if you didn’t pay attention to the details.

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Brian Moody has been an automotive writer and presenter for more than 10 years. He has contributed to such media outlets as CNBC, Fox Business, the Today show, Speed TV, Edmunds.com and KTLA in Los Angeles. He currently covers the automotive industry and reviews new cars for the nationally syndicated Car Concerns radio show.

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