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What is Nappa leather and is it a good choice for car seats?

By Paul Connolly

Often when choosing the trim or grade of a car, you’ll see that higher end models are specced with “Nappa leather”.

It sounds luxurious and breathable, a premium product; and it is.

But what is Nappa leather, where does it come from and is it worth the cost?

We’ve done the research so you don’t have to.

So what is it?

To the touch and the feel, Nappa leather is indeed a premium product.

It looks and feels great, as a premium leather should.

You’ll find it in a range of cars, not just high-end motors like the McLaren F1 or the Bentley Continental GT, but in Fords, Mitsubishis and right across the range of manufacturers.

However, despite the widespread popularity of the term ‘Nap leather’ it isn’t actually a product.

Nappa is a generic term in the leather industry and there are no codified rules setting out precisely what it is.

Not that it’s a term that can sometimes be abused by advertisers, so always look closely if buying.

Nappa is a fine, smooth leather that’s breathable, often unsealed and particularly soft to the touch.

It usually comes from young kids (of the goat type!), calves, lambs and other animals whose hide can be used to make leather. Vegans, etc. will obviously want to avoid this product.

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Often, Nappa leather is chrome-tanned and a distinction can be made between natural, slightly pigmented, pigmented and sanded versions.

It is also known as aniline leather – open-pored and only coloured with certain pigments. You can generally feel the grain, although if it has been sanded on the grain side it can be very smooth. Colouring tends to be gentle to preserve its natural effects.

Nappa leather gives cars a premium, even luxurious feel and is prized by many manufacturers for the brand image it helps project.

 Many drivers report feeling more comfortable Nappa leather seats. This is more pronounced on long journeys and in very hot – or very cold – weather.

Is it easy to clean?

The types used in cars are easier to clean than other types of leather, as they are treated with special coats. However, they will put up with less heavy abuse than more industrially-processed leather. Mostly, they are simply wipe-clean.

Is it durable?

Yes, genuine Nappa leather car seats will last for years. The better you look after them, the longer they will last.

Properly cared-forlLeather seats will make your great for years, and even make it look younger than its real age.

How much does it cost?

How long is a piece of string? Manufacturers generally include Nappa in the range-topping models so the cost is hidden in a respect.

If you were to spec Nappa individually in a car you could pay around £1,000. But it depends on lots of factors; surface area, labour hours required, how many seats, are other areas of the car to be covered like the steering wheel, dash or doors.

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Is the cost worth it?

Depends on your view, however leather seats generally very are much desired in the used car market, so the answer is probably yes, although the value decreases with age.

It would be difficult to do a scientific cost-benefit analysis because that would not include the advantages you had gained from your thousands of miles of comfortable motoring on breathable leather.

Plus, the smell of new leather car seats is unbeatable!

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