This paper presents a combined experimental and numerical analysis of rotating stall in a transonic centrifugal compressor impeller for automotive turbochargers. Stall characteristics of the compressor were examined by two high-response pressure transducers mounted on the casing wall near the impeller inlet. The pressure traces were analyzed by wavelet transforms to estimate the disturbance waves quantitatively. Three-dimensional unsteady internal flow fields were simulated numerically by Detached Eddy Simulation (DES) coupled LES-RANS approach. The analysis results show good agreements on both compressor performance characteristics and the unsteady flow features at the rotating stall. At stall inception, spiral-type breakdown of the full-blade tip leakage vortex was found out at some passages and the brokendown regions propagated against the impeller rotation. This phenomenon changed with throttling, and tornado-type separation vortex caused by the full-blade leading edge separation dominated the flow field at developed stall condition. It is similar to the flow model of short-length scale rotating stall established in an axial compressor rotor.