We tend to push our long-term test cars through all sorts of gauntlets, evaluating everything from comfort during all-day drives to cargo hauling capacity and fuel economy. But the single thing we hope never to test is a car's crashworthiness.

Unfortunately for us (and our 2014 Kia Sorento SX), that line was crossed when the business end of our long-term tester met the tail end of a late model Toyota RAV4. The unintended impact happened at a red light after it turned green. Thinking the car ahead of us had started accelerating, we hit the gas -- only to find out that the car ahead actually hadn't moved at all. The impact didn't feel exceptionally hard, but it was enough to deploy the airbag, which left a small, almost imperceptible wrist abrasion.

Damage Evaluation

After the accident, which creased the RAV4's tailgate and bumper, the Sorento looked quite a bit worse for wear thanks to the severely crumpled and bent front end. As disarmingly mangled as the Kia may have looked following the wreck, the fact is that the crossover's bodywork did exactly what it was supposed to do in an accident: protect the occupants by absorbing the energy of impact.

The accident must have involved a stronger hit than we initially thought, because the alignment of the rear door wasn't quite right. So, under the subjective circumstances of our experience, it seems the Sorento was hit with quite a bit of force. That said, what do government crash tests say about the Sorento's safety and structural integrity?

Safety, by the Books

A look at the 2014 Kia Sorento's spec sheet reveals a solid amount of safety features, including dual front advanced airbags, side-curtain airbags for two rows of seating and front active headrests.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2014 Sorento achieves five out of five stars in frontal and side crash tests, four out of five stars in rollover accidents and an overall 5-star rating. That's an improvement over the outgoing 2013 model, which managed an overall 4-star rating, likely due to improvements to the '14 model, such as a stiffer chassis, which gains 18 percent more torsional rigidity compared to its predecessor.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also speaks highly of the safety engineering behind the 2014 Sorento SX, lauding it with a top rating of Good across 20 crash-test parameters. And U.S. News & World Report's compilation of NHTSA and IIHS crash-test findings bestows the Sorento with a perfect 10/10 score.

So ... Next Steps?

After filling out an accident report, providing our information for insurance purposes and reluctantly handing over the key fob for our battered, borrowed Kia, we were told a body shop would evaluate and repair the damage.

With such strong objective performance measurements, the startling visual damage only reinforced the idea that our big red crossover took the brunt of the impact so we wouldn't have to, which is exactly what you would hope for when considering how lucky you feel after walking away from any accident in perfectly good health.

It's that feeling that makes us confident about climbing back into our long-term Sorento when it returns from the body shop.

author photo

Basem Wasef is an automotive journalist, author, and photographer with two coffee table books under his belt, and is a regular contributor to Popular Mechanics, Robb Report, and Maxim among others. When Basem isn't traveling the globe testing vehicles, he enjoys calling Los Angeles home.

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