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Leather vs Fabric vs Synthetic Leather: Why Does It Matter? - Carbi deco

Leather vs Fabric vs Synthetic Leather: Why Does It Matter?

We’ve all been there, stuck in a traffic for hours, turning circles looking for parking space, this is a common experience we all expect to go through when you stay in the major cities in Malaysia like Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang or Johor.

In fact, The Straits Times reported in 2017 that the average time spent in a traffic congestion for those living in Kuala Lumpur is 53 minutes per day while the time spent every day looking for parking is averagely 25 minutes a day! 

That adds up to more than an hour spent doing only that and if you total up the time that you are driving as well, that’s at least 2 hours spent every day in your car!

traffic jam

This is why we feel that the comfort in your car is extremely important. Most of us think that we have to live with whatever the car manufacturers give us, but that’s not true. So how can I improve my comfort while stuck in bad traffic? It starts with your car seats.

Good ergonomics aside, for car seats, the materials used for your car seats matter when it comes to comfort. In today’s competitive car manufacturing market, there are even cars RM300k and above that use cheap fabric-type material for its seats! But why?

The fact is, for many car manufacturers, it is easy to lower costs for car interiors. It is much easier to shift the focus to an attractive design and save a penny for the materials used on seats! Because generally, the first thing you see on a brand-new car is its exterior design. How often do people look at a new car from its inside first? But the materials do play an important part for your daily comfort in the car. Here we will provide a comparison of each materials for Fabric, Leather and Synthetic Leather.

Leather seats


People call this “real leather” or “genuine leather”, which refers to leather harvested from the bodies of cows, goats, sheeps and so on.


  • It is breathable
    Animal leather have pores that allow heat and air to move in and out.

  • Stretchable
    Leather is easily stretched, and becomes more elastic and softer as you use it.

  • It has a sense of luxury and status


  • It is not durable
    Leather can be easily scratched by your clothing or bag button, zip, or by yourself accidentally! It hurts because you cannot repair these minor scuffs!

  • It shows signs of use easily and this ruins its aesthetic value
    Because it stretches so easily, over time, it does not recover from the stretches. The leather wrinkles and stretches become very visible.

  • High maintenance
    Because it wears out and shows signs of age so easily, it needs a lot of care!
Synthetic leather seats

Synthetic Leather

Synthetic leather is simply manmade leather that is meant to replace the use of animal leather. Many have the misconception that manmade leathers are cheap, but this is not the case when it comes to the automotive industry. Some high grade synthetic leathers are more expensive than real leather! It is designed to replace real leather for environmental reasons while providing the same look and feel.


  • Environmentally friendly
    The usage of synthetic leather replaces the need for real leather.

  • It is much more durable
    The higher automotive grade leathers are designed to be superior in its durability than real leather.

  • Easy maintenance
    Unlike real leather, it does not age as easily and does not have natural wrinkles or stretch marks over time. You can just wipe it down with water to clean and maintain it.

  • Does not trap dust
    Unlike fabric, it does not allow dust to be trapped underneath and allows an easy cleaning process.


  • Does not give you a vintage look
    Those who are looking for a vintage look from the aging of real leather will be disappointed.

  • Less stretchability
    Real leather stretches over time, but synthetic leather does not become loose and softer like animal leather.

  • It is difficult to source
    It may be difficult to find manufacturers that use high quality automotive grade synthetic leather.
Fabric and cloth seats


Fabric material is common for car seats. It is the cheapest material that can be used for car seats. Of course, there’s also Alcantara that is similar to the feel of cloth/fabric but significantly more expensive, but that’s a topic for another day.


  • Cheaper compared to any types of leather
    It is just cloth/fabric material, the most commonly produced material in the world, so naturally it is much cheaper too.

  • Breathable
    Fabric is simply yarns/threads weaved/knitted together, so it is very breathable.

  • Good Friction
    This is especially important for car racing enthusiasts. Higher friction allows it to hold a driver’s body in place during sharp corners.


  • Dust magnet
    Dust gets trapped within and beneath fabric very easily, hence the cleaning process can be very tedious, with long hours of vacuuming dust out of the fabric.

  • Easily scratched
    A deep scratch will pull some threads out of the fabric and show a very obvious sign of damage.

  • Fabric can absorb heat easily
    Fabric absorbs and hold heat within it easily. Just think of why we wear thick layers of clothes, hoodies, sweaters or blankets to protect ourselves from the cold.

  • Easily stained and difficult to clean
    It can be stained easily. When the stain dries up, it will be extremely difficult to clean off!

  • Absorbs odor
    Odors can easily be absorbed and remains within the fabric. Over time, your fabric seats will retain the smell, good or bad. This will be obvious if you have owned a car with fabric seats. You smell it the moment you get into your car.
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