Following in the tire tracks of cars as diverse as the Ford Mustang and Scion xB, the Kia Soul has made a habit of introducing customized, limited-run variants to stay fresh in the marketplace, and the latest—the 2012 Red Rock Special Edition—will help ensure customers don’t take Kia’s urban activity vehicle for granite. But stone-cold puns like that aside, the strategy has certainly worked wonders for the Soul, which is among the best-selling vehicles in its segment.
Adding Some Southwestern Style
The Red Rock edition takes its name from the striking rock formations found in certain parts of the American Southwest, and is based on the “Soul!” trim level; for those unfamiliar with Soul nomenclature, that exclamation point refers to the top-of-the-line model, as opposed to those with the base or “Soul+” trims.
On its own, this means the Soul Red Rock starts with standard features like a new-for-2012 2.0-liter I4 engine and six-speed automatic transmission that combine to deliver 22 more horsepower than the comparable setup from last year while also adding a significant boost to the Soul’s fuel efficiency. This year’s numbers: A best-in-class 164 hp and an EPA line of 26 mpg city/34 mpg highway/29 mpg combined—representing increases of 2 mpg/4 mpg/3 mpg.
Also standard are features including projector headlamps with LED accents, LED taillights, nifty 18-inch alloy wheels and a more refined cabin that boasts some big audio dynamite in the form of an all-new 350-watt Infinity sound system with seven speakers (including a subwoofer), an external amplifier, speaker lights, steering-wheel-mounted controls, a USB port and AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 capabilities. Naturally, the Soul Red Rock also packs packs Kia’s UVO voice-activated infotainment and connectivity system along with Bluetooth technologies for Internet music streaming and hands-free calling.
Then comes the actual special stuff that makes Red Rock edition so darned special, like a dazzling Canyon-colored exterior, High-Gloss Black front fascia and mirror housings, an interior highlighted by exclusive black leather trim matched to brown cloth seats, automatic climate control, and heated front seats.
The price? A mere $21,350, including a $750 destination charge.
Adding Some Sales, Too
While introducing the new Soul model, Michael Sprague, vice president of Marketing and Communications for Kia Motor America, said: "The wildly popular Soul has been a game-changer for Kia since it arrived in 2009, and our series of special editions over the past three years have added individualism and exclusivity to an already fun and youthful vehicle.
"Style and flair are key to Soul's success, and the Red Rock Special Edition, which has plenty of both, will help drive sales into 2012."
And while you wouldn’t expect Sprague to say anything different, the Soul actually does live up to that “wildly popular” claim fairly well. If you look at similarly shaped vehicles like the Nissan Cube, Scion xB and now defunct Honda Element, only the Soul has achieved anything like mainstream sales success. The highest seller from those three rivals last year was the xB, managing 17,017 deliveries for a 16.4 percent drop; making for a stark contrast, the Soul set a full-year record with 102,267 sales and posted a gaudy 52.3 percent jump northward.
Those numbers are even more impressive when taking into account the size of the Soul. Lengthwise, the Kia fits right into the subcompact category, where the Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa all compete. But in 2011, the Soul topped even those mainstream models in sales, in most cases by tens of thousands of units.
The Versa rang up 99,730 sales last year as the top-selling traditional subcompact, but the next car on the list, the Fiesta, garnered 68,574 sales in 2011 to trail the Soul by more than 33,000 units.
Nissan’s all-new sedan model did help the Versa family get out to an early lead over the Soul in January, when it outsold the Kia by over 1,000 units, yet the Soul’s performance, with 8,091 vehicles delivered and a 51.4 percent increase in volume, wasn’t exactly worth complaining about—unless, of course, you’re one of Kia’s competitors.