The improvements boost protection in a small-overlap front crash, which replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or hits an object like a tree or utility pole.
The three-row Santa Fe, a distinct model from the two-row Santa Fe Sport, previously earned a Marginal rating in the small-overlap test, and the 2017 model earned a Good rating, the IIHS noted in a statement.
Hyundai reinforced the passenger compartment beginning with the 2017 model year. After production started, the driver's seat belt was modified to further improve small-overlap protection.
The 2017 Santa Fe, which is on sale now at Hyundai dealerships, earned ratings of Good in all other IIHS crash tests.
In addition, the Santa Fe's optional front-crash prevention system earned the highest rating of Superior. When equipped with the system, the Santa Fe avoided crashes in 12-mph and 25-mph track tests.
Standard safety equipment on the 2017 Santa Fe includes electronic stability control, traction control, antilock brakes, a rearview camera and seven airbags.
New optional safety equipment includes smart cruise control, lane-departure warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not rated the 2017 Santa Fe.
Edmunds says: Car shoppers should note that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not rated the 2017 Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder.