Rare praise: Consumer Reports gives Chevy Impala top rating

2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
Source: General Motors
2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ

In a rare move, Consumer Reports has rated a large sedan from a United States automaker as the best in its category. It's the first time in more than 20 years the auto editors at Consumer Reports have rated a domestic model as the best sedan in the market.

The car is the new, 2014 Chevy Impala.

Consumer Reports rated the car at 95 out of 100, calling it "excellent."

"The Impala's performance is one more indicator of an emerging domestic renaissance," said Jake Fisher, director of Consumer Reports automotive testing.

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A score of 95 makes the new Impala among the highest rated vehicles CR has ever reviewed.

From mediocre to stellar

Last year, Consumer Reports rated the previous version of the Impala a mediocre 63 out of 100.

1960 Chevrolet Impala
Source: OSX | Wikipedia
1960 Chevrolet Impala

It was so forgettable the auto team at CR would not recommend the car and described it as "a woefully uncompetitive and outdated model that was to be avoided even as a free upgrade at the rental-car company."

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So what changed?

Almost everything.

Based on the same platform as the Cadillac XTS, the new Impala is praised for the way it rides and handles. Meanwhile CR noted the interior of the Impala sets the new standard for fit and finish in Chevy cars with high-quality materials and trim.

In a summary seldom heard about Chevy cars, Consumer Reports said, "The Impala is competitive with cars that cost $20,000 more."

Model Score

1. Chevy Impala 95
2. Hyundai Genesis 92
3. Toyota Avalon 85
4. Chrysler 300 83
5. Nissan Maxima 83
Source: Consumer Reports

Wave of new GM models coming

The Impala is one of 20 new or re-designed models General Motors is rolling into showrooms this year. So far, only a third of those models have hit showrooms, making the second half of this year a critical period for the automaker.

With so many new models rolling into showrooms at a time when auto sales are growing in the U.S., General Motors is expecting to pick-up market share.

Year-to-date, GM sales are up 8 percent. That is slightly higher than overall auto sales in the U.S. Which are have grown 7.7 percent this year.

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com.