Structural improvements to the 2017 Kia Forte have earned the small car an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+ award.

With longer side-curtain airbags, stronger door hinge pillar and door sill, models built after March earn a good rating in the small overlap test. This test represents a crash in which the left front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or with an object such as a tree or utility pole.

“In the test of the Forte, the driver’s space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of 3 inches at the footrest,” stated the IIHS. “The dummy’s movement was well-controlled, and measures from the dummy indicated a low risk of injuries in a crash of this severity.”

Earlier models earned a marginal rating, with intrusion reaching eight inches at the lower hinge pillar. In addition, the dummy’s head contacted the instrument panel, and the side curtain airbag failed to provide sufficient forward coverage.

The Forte’s optional front crash prevention system, new for 2017, earns a superior rating. The vehicle avoided collisions in IIHS track tests at 12 and 25 mph. The system also includes a forward collision warning component that meets the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s criteria.

To qualify for the 2017 Top Safety Pick award, a vehicle must have good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests and an available front crash prevention rating that earns an advanced or superior rating. The “plus” is awarded to vehicles that meet those criteria and also have good or acceptable headlights.