Hyundai has been on a mission to turn their fortunes around with hard work, smart engineering and a dogged determination to improve. The 2007 Santa Fe has just gone from the dubious rating of "poor" to a trifecta of "good" in front, side, and rear collisions by the IIHS. The '07 Santa Fe owes its dramatic and positive swing in the IIHS ratings to standard Stability Control and several improvements to the seats and head rest. The IIHS "good" trophy will look terrific on Hyundai's mantel alongside the Santa Fe's five-star NHTSA rating for front and side impact.

This is more good news for Hyundai that's on a bit of a roll. The Veracruz just beat out the Lexus RX350 in a Motor Trend comparison, RWD luxury vehicles with V8 engines will soon be in the lineup, and quality scores have improved dramatically. If we were Toyota, we'd be sweating the sleeper company from South Korea right about now. Check out the full press release after the jump.

[Source: IIHS]

Hyundai Santa Fe earns 2007 TOP SAFETY PICK award

ARLINGTON, VA - The 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe, a midsize SUV, meets the criteria to earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's TOP SAFETY PICK designation. The Santa Fe earned the top rating of good for front, side, and rear crash protection and is equipped with electronic stability control. Now 21 cars, SUVs, and minivans earn TOP SAFETY PICK status.

"The performance of the Santa Fe makes good on Hyundai's promise to provide the highest level of safety to its customers," says Institute president Adrian Lund. The Hyundai Entourage and twin Kia Sedona also earned TOP SAFETY PICK for minivans. The Institute recognizes vehicles with this award to help consumers distinguish the best overall choices without having to sort through multiple crash test results.

"Criteria to win are tough because they're intended to drive continued safety improvements such as high crash test ratings and rapid addition of electronic stability control, which is standard equipment on the Santa Fe," Lund says. The Santa Fe also is equipped with side airbags as standard equipment to protect the heads of people in all three rows of seats.

Redesign improves rear crash performance: Hyundai engineers redesigned the Santa Fe's seat/head restraints to improve performance in rear impacts. The seats and head restraints in this vehicle's predecessor model were rated poor overall. The new seats include head restraints designed to automatically move up and toward the heads of people in the front seats during a rear impact. These new seat/head restraints are rated good overall.

How vehicles are evaluated: The Institute's frontal crashworthiness evaluations are based on results of 40 mph frontal offset crash tests. Each vehicle's overall evaluation is based on measurements of intrusion into the occupant compartment, injury measures recorded on a Hybrid III dummy in the driver seat, and analysis of slow-motion film to assess how well the restraint system controlled dummy movement during the test.

Side evaluations are based on performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. The barrier represents the front end of a pickup or SUV. Ratings reflect injury measures recorded on two instrumented SID-IIs dummies, assessment of head protection countermeasures, and the vehicle's structural performance during the impact. Injury measures obtained from the two dummies, one in the driver seat and the other in the back seat behind the driver, are used to determine the likelihood that a driver and/or passenger in a similar real-world crash would sustain serious injury to various parts of the body. The movements and contacts of the dummies' heads during the test also are evaluated. Structural performance is based on measurements indicating the amount of B-pillar intrusion into the occupant compartment.

Rear crash protection is rated according to a two-step procedure. Starting points for the ratings are measurements of head restraint geometry - the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size man. Seat/head restraints with good or acceptable geometry are tested dynamically using a dummy that measures forces on the neck.