DETROIT Kia Motors Corp's (000270.KS) Cadenza debuted on Tuesday in second place on Consumer Reports magazine's list of top large sedans, edging out the former standard-bearer in the segment, the gasoline-powered version of Toyota Motor Corp's (7203.T) Avalon.
The gas-powered Avalon ranked third among 12 large sedans rated by the influential publication, which has more than 8 million subscribers. At the top of the Consumer Reports list was the 2014 Chevrolet Impala, made by General Motors Co (GM.N).
Toyota's hybrid Avalon sedan did, however, tie for second with the Cadenza.
"The Cadenza banishes any lingering thoughts that Kia is just a manufacturer of cheap, unrefined cars," said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports.
In 2007, the last time the magazine ranked large sedans, the gas-powered Avalon topped the list. That the Avalon has been supplanted by American and Korean models reflects the upheaval in the global auto industry over the last six years.
Since its 2009 U.S.-funded bankruptcy restructuring, GM has put a renewed focus on quality. Kia and its sister company, Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS), are moving into more premium segments of the U.S. market with higher-quality models.
"Kia and Hyundai have really risen up in our testing," the magazine's automotive editor, Rik Paul, said in an interview. "Americans, too, are following suit. The Japanese are not nearly as dominant as they once were."
The hybrid Avalon sedan tied for second place with the Cadenza because fuel economy is given more weight in the rankings, Paul said. Last month, the magazine said the Impala was the best-rated sedan of any size.
The Cadenza, which went on sale earlier this year, is Kia's first attempt to go upscale. Kia used the model to mark its first appearance at the Concours d'Elegance classic car show this month.
(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)