• 5-star crash-test rating from NHTSA
  • Top Safety Pick rating from IIHS
  • Long list of standard safety features

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave Kia's redesigned large crossover vehicle its top safety rating in recent crash testing. The 2014 Kia Sorento, a 5- or 7-passenger vehicle, earned a 5-star overall rating for both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive models. A long list of safety features -- included as standard equipment across Sorento's four trim grades -- helped the model to achieve its high scores.

The federal government crash-tests vehicles in three categories: frontal impact, side impact and rollovers. Each vehicle can earn up to five stars in each of the three categories and is then assigned an overall safety score. The Sorento not only performed well overall, but its scores on individual tests also show high levels of safety. Both driver and passenger fared well in front- and side-impact testing, each scoring five stars. In the rollover test, the Sorento scored four stars.

The list of standard safety equipment protecting Sorento passengers includes six airbags, active front head restraints, electronic stability control, electronic brake force distribution and a rollover sensor. More advanced safety features such as a backup camera and a blind spot monitoring system are available.

It's notable that both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive Sorento models boast the same 5-star rating. In crash testing, the only difference was a slightly higher rollover risk in the front-wheel-drive version.

Besides NHTSA, one nongovernmental group also crash-tests vehicles, and the Sorento performed well in its tests, too. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the 2014 Kia Sorento a Top Safety Pick, the highest possible rating for vehicles not yet tested in the firm's new small overlap front crash test. Should the Sorento post a strong score when it is finally tested in the small overlap crash, it could still earn the Top Safety Pick+ designation.

What it means to you: Safety is important to new-car shoppers for obvious reasons. Especially in the case of a 5- or 7-passenger vehicle, choosing a vehicle that will protect occupants is a priority for most shoppers. NHTSA rates all new cars on its 5-star scale, and those ratings are posted on every new car's window sticker as soon as they're available. Shoppers also can check safety ratings at NHTSA's website, safercar.gov.

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Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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