Running improvements to the 2017 Kia Forte have earned the compact sedan the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest award, Top Safety Pick Plus, when equipped with optional crash avoidance and headlight systems.
The results only apply to 2017 Fortes built in April or later. Those cars have longer side-curtain airbags and a beefed-up door opening structure, changes Kia made to help the car earn the top rating of good in IIHS's tough small overlap front crash test.
Earlier models rated marginal in the test, indicating more risk of injury. You can find the month and year of manufacture on the manufacturer's decal, located on the driver's doorjamb. The car already had good scores in IIHS' four other crash tests, a superior rating for the optional crash prevention system and a good rating in the headlight test for the Forte's optional high-intensity discharge projector headlights. The other headlights used on the Forte rated poor.
The collision system is offered in option packages for the higher-level S and EX models, but not on the base LX. And the headlight rating of good applies only to the headlights that are part of the Premium Plus package offered only on the EX trim, and to Fortes built after July 2016.
The Forte's rating now matches IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus awards for 2017 rivals such as the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza. But the headlight test has proven to be a challenge for some other competitors, including the 2017 Honda Civic and Nissan Sentra, both of which earned poor ratings for their headlight combinations. Watch the Forte's crash performance in the video below, and see the full ratings for these compact sedans here.