What Is Toyota SofTex?

Here's everything you need to know about the automaker's synthetic leather.

Front seats trimmed with gray SofTex in Toyota RAV4 HybridToyota

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Offered on a variety of models in Toyota's lineup, SofTex is a synthetic upholstery option that's meant to be a step up from cloth and an alternative to leather. It can mimic the feel, durability, and easy maintenance of cowhide without using any animal products.

Seats trimmed with black SofTex in Toyota RAV4 HybridToyota

What Is SofTex?

Animal lovers rejoice: SofTex is an artificial seat-cover material made of a thermoplastic polyurethane blend. First introduced as an option on the Toyota Prius and Camry for the 2012 model year, it has since made its way into other vehicles in the automaker's lineup, such as the Corolla, RAV4, Sienna, Highlander, and 4Runner. For certain trims, it's the only interior material available.

Rear seats trimmed with black SofTex in Toyota RAV4 HybridToyota  

SofTex Might Be Superior to Leather

In several respects, SofTex will likely be as good as, if not better than, genuine leather upholstery for many customers. First, it looks a lot like leather, mimicking the grain and sheen of the natural material. You might even fool someone into believing it's the real thing.

Second, should you spill something on it, it's relatively easy to clean. A few spritzes of interior detailer, the swipe of a microfiber, and you're done. Plus, it requires no regular maintenance beyond that cursory cleaning.

Owners of leather-upholstered vehicles, meanwhile, will probably need to apply a special conditioner to the upholstery from time to time to retain its suppleness and prevent surface cracking.

Moreover, SofTex is extremely lightweight, weighing about half as much as conventional cowhide. It might not make an appreciable difference in the car’s curb weight on its own, but automakers are always looking for ways to cut excess weight. The deductions eventually add up to a more efficient vehicle.

Then there are SofTex's heat-shedding capabilities. It's less likely to burn you than leather is. That's due in part to SofTex's UV-protective coating, which is designed to reflect the sun's rays instead of absorbing them, and in part to its breathability. Whereas leather (and old-school vinyl) interiors don't allow for much airflow through the seats, SofTex does, which can make for a much more comfortable (read: less sticky) driving experience.

The synthetic composition of SofTex also makes it more eco-friendly, as does the fact that the production, assembly, and installation of SofTex interiors generates 85% fewer CO2 emissions and 99% fewer volatile organic compounds than leather.

Lastly, a SofTex interior often doesn't cost as much as a leather one. On the mid-level Toyota Sienna XSE, for instance, SofTex comes standard, but buyers need to pay an additional $4,000 to wrap the front seats in leather.

Front seats trimmed with black SofTex in Toyota RAV4 HybridToyota

In Some Ways, SofTex Can Be Inferior to Leather

While SofTex comes close to the look and feel of leather, many people can tell the difference. The natural material has a richness and shine that's hard to replicate, even though Toyota comes close. Also, a properly maintained leather interior might age more gracefully than SofTex.

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Brennan Sullivan
Brennan Sullivan is a writer and lifelong car fanatic. With an appreciation for all makes and models, Brennan is particularly passionate about the rich history of the automotive industry. In his spare time, he's the caretaker of a 1962 Sunbeam Alpine, and a Golden Retriever named Willow.