PhotoThe 2017 Jeep Compass, equipped with optional front crash prevention, has been named winner of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK award.

The addition of that feature marks the first time in a decade that the Compass has been redesigned. The award affects models built in the 2017 calendar year; however, a few 2017 models built in 2016 have the old design.

A vehicle must have good ratings in all five IIHS crashworthiness tests -- small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints -- to earn a TOP SAFETY PICK award. The vehicle must also earn an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

The small SUV earned a superior rating for its optional front crash prevention system by avoiding collisions in the 12 mph and 25 mph IIHS track tests.

Headlights a disqualifier

The Compass would have qualified for the TOP SAFETY PICK+ award had its headlights not fallen short of an acceptable or good rating.

The vehicle's optional high-intensity discharge lights and high-beam assist, which automatically switches between high beams and low beams when other vehicles are present, earned a marginal headlight rating.

Its base halogen headlights were rated “poor.”

Touting Jeep's safety

FCA US LLC, Jeep's parent company, expects the IIHS award will improve sales of the Compass.

Product PR Manager Jordan Wasylyk noted that the new Compass has been on sale in the U.S. for only six months, and that last month it posted its best sales month ever with 11,356 vehicles sold -- an increase of 75 percent from the previous year.

“As with any award,” said Wasylyk, “it’s confirmation of why the vehicle should be considered for purchase and validates the Jeep brand’s safety claim.”

However, he added that, “for competitive reasons the company doesn’t disclose projected sales.”

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