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 |  Apr 09 2011, 11:29 AM

Drum roll please! The 2011 Mazda 3 is the latest vehicle to make it as a Top Safety Pick, after earning the top rating of good for roof strength in rollover crashes, as well as for front, side, and rear crash protection.

The sedan/hatchback drove away with a Top Safety Pick in the small cars category. It’s the first Mazda to achieve this rating since the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had changed its criteria, making it more difficult for vehicles to earn a good rating.

To rate the 4-door sedan and hatchback versions, the Mazda 3 had to go through two tests. The roof of the sedan withstood a force equal to 5.32 times the car’s weight, while the roof of the hatchback withstood a force equal to 5.09 times its weight. To earn a good rating in the IIHS test, vehicles must have a strength-to-weight ratio of 4 or higher. The Mazda 3 also features electronic stability control (ESC), which comes standard on the 2011 model.

The award for the Mazda 3 only applies to those cars built after December 2010, as the automaker made changes to the roof structure to improve roof strength.