Dodge Dart gets top safety ranking

Dodge Dart crash test Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

(MoneyWatch) It's been a good week for Chrysler Group. Tuesday it said that September sales had jumped 12 percentover a year earlier. And now the Dodge Dart, one of the automaker's most important new models, has received a top safety ranking from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Chrysler, traditionally strong in its Jeep brand, minivans and large sedans, is touting the Dart as a worthy competitor in the compact, high-MPG category, which has been selling well amid gas prices. The Dart, although it sold just 5,235 units in September, is still reaching full production at its Belvidere, Ill., plant.

For shoppers moving to smaller cars to get higher gas mileage, a vehicle's resilience in crashes is a common concern. So for Chrysler, matching the top safety rating of competitors like the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus is important.

To get the Insurance Institute's top safety pick rating, a car must pass stringent testing in frontal crashes (pictured here), side and rear impact, and roof strength to protect occupants in rollover accidents.

Other 2013 models getting the top pick in the IIHS announcement this week are the redesigned Lexus ES luxury sedan, the Hyundai Santa Fe SUV and the Subaru XV Crosstrek, a wagon.

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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.

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