On sale now at Kia dealerships, the 2016 Optima received good crashworthiness ratings across the board, and an optional front-crash prevention system earned a superior rating.
"The new model's ratings are an improvement over the 2015 Optima, which earned only an acceptable rating in the challenging small overlap test," the Institute said in a statement on Thursday.
The small overlap test is designed to replicate what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole.
The Institute also noted the previous-generation Optima had no optional front-crash prevention.
It received five stars in the front, side and rollover crash test.
Standard safety equipment on the 2016 Optima includes antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control and seven airbags, including a driver's knee airbag. A blind-spot detection system and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on the Optima SXL 2.0T.
Edmunds says: Car shoppers keeping score should note that the 2016 Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry are also 2016 Top Safety Pick+ award winners.