The rating applies to the carryover 2017 Sorento with the new optional front-crash prevention system. The 2017 Sorento is on sale now at Kia dealerships.
"The system is an improvement over the one available on the 2016 model, which was a warning system only and earned a 'basic' rating from IIHS," the Institute said in a statement.
To qualify for the award, a vehicle must have "good" ratings in the five Institute crashworthiness tests and an "advanced" or "superior" rating for front-crash prevention.
When equipped with the optional front-crash prevention system, the Sorento avoided a crash in the 12 mph and the 25 mph IIHS track tests.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the 2017 Sorento earned the highest five-star safety rating.
The Sorento received five stars in the front and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover crash test.
Standard safety equipment on the 2017 Sorento includes six airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control and vehicle stability management. Optional safety equipment includes blind-spot detection, forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert and autonomous emergency braking.
Edmunds says: Car shoppers keeping score should note that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not rated the 2017 Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge and Honda Pilot.