Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC)’s updated 2013 Honda Civic received top crash test scores and has earned a Top Safety Pick “Plus” designation.

Honda Civic

This is the first for a compact car to achieve the honour from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) industry testers. The Civic in two of its models, the two and four-door models, received a “good” score – the highest one – on the new, challenging offset crash test along with the usual battery of tests.

Especially notable is the challenges that small cars face in crashes, as larger vehicles usually come out of them in better condition, according to USA Today.

In this new IIHS frontal offset test, it examines when a car smashes into an object that looks like either a pole or a limited head-on collision from both the driver and passenger side. To receive the TSP+ designation, first a car has to pass the usual front, rear, side, and rollover crash tests, before getting through the new “small overlap test” of impact that affects 20% of a vehicle’s front end.

Numerous cars have not passed the test (which is not government-mandated) but it exemplifies that engineers are learning how to change new cars to ensure passage of it.

As for Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC)’s 2013 Civic, with its passage, it reflects the upgrades that have been made to the car from its 2012 version. Changes had come not from crash test results but aesthetics. The recent model had been criticized for its interior materials and additional appearance and performance traits.

Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC) engineers apparently took the changes further by building in extra safety into the 2013 version, reported USA Today, with major changes to its front crash structure to achieve the new test’s requirements. Structural changes can be seen in the front crash structure design of the Civic’s bigger sibling, the updated 2013 Honda Accord.

Chuck Thomas, Honda’s chief engineer of automotive safety in the U.S. said via Bloomberg,“Improvements to the Civic and Accord allow us to put large-volume vehicles into the marketplace and improve the safety of the overall fleet.”

Three other models also attained the top rating. This included the redesigned Mazda Motor Cororation (TYO:7261)’s 2014 Mazda6 mid-size mainstream sedan, Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F)’s Lincoln MKX mid-size luxury sedan, and the Volvo Car Corporation’s XC60 mid-size luxury SUV.

Thursday’s announcement follows one from December when the group announced the test results for mid-size cars. Earning the lowest ratings from the new collision test was Toyota Motor Corporation (NYSE:TM)’s Camry, the U.S.’s best-selling mid-size car, and its Prius V hybrid.