On sale now at Kia dealers, the 2016 Sorento earned "good" scores in all of the Institute's crashworthiness tests, including the small overlap front test. The 2014-'15 Sorento earned a "poor" rating in that test.
The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.
In that test of the 2016 Sorento, "measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity," the Institute said in a statement.
It added: "It's a marked improvement from the previous-generation Sorento. In the test of the 2014 model, the driver's space was seriously compromised. Measures from the dummy indicated a high likelihood of injuries to the lower left leg and possible injuries to the left thigh and knee in a crash of this severity."
The Top Safety Pick award is given to vehicles that earn a good or acceptable small overlap rating and good ratings in the other four crashworthiness tests.
The Korean SUV is available with optional forward collision warning.
Edmunds says: This is a major safety achievement for the 2016 Kia Sorento and should be noted by shoppers in this crowded segment.