On sale now at Kia dealerships, the 2017 Sportage "jumps from a poor to a good rating in the challenging small overlap crash test," the Institute said in a statement on Thursday.
The 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 previous generation of the vehicle didn't hold up well in the small overlap test," the Institute said. "In contrast, the redesigned model held up well."
The 2017 Sportage received "good" ratings in all other Institute crash tests. Its new optional front-crash prevention system earned a "superior" rating.
Standard safety features on the 2017 Sportage include six airbags, a rearview camera, antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control and hill start assist control.
Optional safety features include forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert.
Edmunds says: Car shoppers keeping score should note that the 2016 Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 also earned the 2016 Top Safety Pick+ award.