A Stereo of Note

As a longtime audio freak as well as a car reviewer, I know that speaker counts, wattage claims and the term "premium stereo" mean nothing in the real world. I like to highlight when an automaker gets it right — as Suzuki did with its Rockford Fosgate upgrade system, standard in the GTS and SLS trims. Lesser known than stock stereo brands like Bose, Boston Acoustics and Harman Kardon, Rockford was a star of aftermarket car audio's heyday in the 1990s, and the Kizashi shows what Rockford can do when given enough money and early access in a car's development. The deck-mounted subwoofer delivers extended, well-controlled bass that sounds anchored to a front soundstage, not booming away in the backseat. The frequency response and clarity are excellent for anyone with the sense not to boost the tone controls, and even the spatial rendition is good, though the front door tweeters tend to call attention to themselves. A great effort overall — better than what you'll find in many high-priced luxury cars. It's a shame you can't get it as an option in the Kizashi's lower trim levels.

A standard USB port lets you control compatible iPods, which my old Mini apparently isn't, but I was able to play MP3 files from a simple flash drive. Through Bluetooth, the Rockford system can play streaming audio from a compatible phone, which impressed reviewer David Thomas.

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