The redesigned 2023 Kia Sportage SUV has earned a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, the insurance-industry funded safety agency announced Thursday. The coveted safety award applies only to the top Prestige grades of the compact crossover, however.

To earn a Top Safety Pick award a vehicle must earn “Good” ratings on all six crash tests performed by the IIHS, and its available automatic emergency braking system must earn at least an “Advanced” rating in avoiding or mitigating crashes with other vehicles and pedestrians.

The final criterion, and the hardest one for automakers to meet, has been the headlight test. Since most fatal crashes happen at night, the IIHS expects cars to earn at least an “Acceptable” rating to qualify for a TSP, and those headlights must be standard across all trims to earn a Top Safety Pick+ award, widely considered to be the most rigorous independently tested safety award.

The 2023 Kia Sportage compact crossover came up short on the headlight test, with only the SX Prestige and X-Pro Prestige attaining “Acceptable” headlight scores. The other grades earned a “Poor” rating for visibility. The Prestige models cost more than $35,000, whereas the base 2023 Sportage LX starts at about $27,000.

The Sportage earned top marks on all six crash tests, and both its standard and available automatic emergency braking systems earned top ” Superior” ratings. Automakers sometimes install better headlights mid-production cycle to comply with the stringent requirements of the IIHS.

Conversely, as more automakers meet the safety standards set by the IIHS, the independent nonprofit raises the safety bar. It launched headlight testing in 2016 and incorporated the criteria into the 2018 model year awards. Nearly 90 models qualified. By 2022, more than half of the 225 models tested earned at least a TSP designation, indicating that automakers continue to meet the standards set by the IIHS.

The IIHS is raising the bar again with a new side crash test intended to reflect the changing composition of today’s car fleet. Last updated 20 years ago, the side impact test that replicates a T-bone crash now uses a heavier crash vehicle with a higher ride height to approximate the proliferation of SUVs and trucks. Starting in 2023, a “Good” or “Acceptable” rating in the new side-impact test will be necessary to earn a TSP, while a “Good” rating will be required for a TSP+.

The 2023 Kia Sportage did not undergo the new test and results have been mixed for other cars so far.

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