ARLINGTON, VA - The Ford Fiesta sedan/hatchback is the first minicar to draw the coveted "Top Safety Pick" award since the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety added a roof strength requirement for rollover protection.

The Fiesta earned the highest rating of "good" for front, side, rollover and rear crash protection, and for having electronic stability control as standard equipment. No other minicar the institute has tested has earned top ratings in all four safety evaluations.

The Fiesta is the eighth Ford model to earn IIHS's top designation. The others are Ford Fusion/Lincoln MKZ/Mercury Milan, Ford Taurus/Lincoln MKS, and Ford Flex/Lincoln MKT.

The Fiesta's award applies to cars built after July 2010 because Ford made design changes to strengthen the outside door handles to minimize the possibility of doors opening in side impact crashes.

In other IIHS news, the institute announced that the 2010 Nissan Xterra, Toyota FJ Cruiser and Toyota 4Runner drew "acceptable" ratings, while the Nissan Pathfinder drew a "marginal" rating, in recent roof strength tests that assess how well vehicles would protect people in rollover crashes.

In this test, a metal plate is pushed against one corner of a vehicle's roof at a constant speed. The maximum force sustained by the roof before five inches of crush is compared to the vehicle's weight to find the strength-to-weight ratio. This is a good assessment of vehicle structural protection in rollover crashes, IIHS said.

"Good"-rated vehicles have roofs that can withstand a force equal to at least four times the vehicle's weight. For an "acceptable" rating, the minimum required strength-to-weight ratio is 3.25. A "marginal" rating value is 2.5. Anything lower than that is designated by IIHS as "poor."