Photo of 2018 Optima mid-size sedan courtesy of Kia.

Photo of 2018 Optima mid-size sedan courtesy of Kia.

The 2018 Kia Optima has earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest award, the Top Safety Pick+, when the midsize car is equipped with optional front crash prevention and good-rated headlights.

The 2018 Optima earned the award after it was modified to achieve good protection in passenger-side small overlap front crashes. The new Top Safety Pick+ designation applies only to Optimas built after January when the manufacturer reinforced the passenger-side door sill, lower door-hinge pillar and toepan to improve occupant protection.

Built on the same platform as the Hyundai Sonata—which already earned a good passenger side small overlap rating for all 2016-18 models—IIHS verified that the Optima's structure is functionally identical, affording the car the same rating.

Criteria for capturing a 2018 Top Safety Pick+ award include a good rating in the driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests; an acceptable or good rating in the passenger-side small overlap test; an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention; and a good headlight rating.

The Optima's optional front crash prevention system earns a superior rating. In IIHS track tests at 12 mph and 25 mph, the vehicle avoided collisions. The system also includes a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

The Optima's optional LED headlights earn a good rating when the car is also equipped with high-beam assist, a feature that automatically switches between high beams and low beams depending on the presence of other vehicles. Without that feature, the LED headlights rate acceptable. The standard halogen lights earn a poor rating.