Photo of Kia Sportage courtesy of Kia Motors.

Photo of Kia Sportage courtesy of Kia Motors.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given the redesigned 2017 model-year Kia Sportage the institute’s top award, Top Safety Pick+.

To qualify for the honor, the compact SUV dramatically improved its performance in the challenging small overlap crash test. The vehicle, which previously drew a “poor” score in the test, drew a “good” rating this time. “Good” is the highest available score for the small overlap crash test.

The Kia Sportage is built on the same platform as the 2016 Hyundai Tucson, which is also a Top Safety Pick+ award winner.

“The previous generation of the vehicle didn’t hold up well in the small overlap test,” IIHS said in a released statement. The driver’s space was compromised when the parking brake pedal was pushed in 16 inches. The steering column moved 4 inches toward the dummy and 6 inches to the right, causing the dummy’s head to slide off the left side of the front airbag. Additionally, the side curtain air bag failed to deploy.

In sharp contrast, the 2017 model held up well, with maximum intrusion of 6 inches at the parking brake pedal and no more than 3 inches elsewhere. The dummy’s movement was well controlled, IIHS said.

Like the previous model, the 2017 Sportage drew “good” ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests.

The Sportage’s new optional front crash prevention system earned a “superior” rating. The SUV avoided a collision in both the 12 mph and 25 mph IIHS track tests. The system also includes a forward collision-warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

To qualify for Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must have “good” ratings in all five crashworthiness tests and an “advanced” or “superior” rating for front crash prevention.