SensaTec Leather
SensaTec Leather
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SensaTec is a leather material by BMW built on vinyl and not animal-based, used on the base trims of certain lower-level versions. It’s not actual leather but rather designed to appear like real leather and sound like it. To produce this form of synthetic leather, most upholstery manufacturers apply synthetic materials including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane (PU), polyester microfibers, etc.

SensaTec leather is produced by combining such components as a petroleum-based plasticizer into a tab (like any other synthetic leather). Then an ultraviolet light stabilizer is applied to shield the material from direct sun rays. The stabilizer also largely renders it flame retarder and fireproof. To the mixture, vinyl powder and coloring agents are then applied. To make it appear and sound like real leather, it is then finished off by making it stylistic grain designs.

Although this faux leather material is not as breathable as any natural leather types, it is hard-wearing, as well as Merino, Nappa and Dakota – other common types of BMW leather upholstery. Cleaning and managing that is also beneficial compared to genuine leather materials. 

You will instantly notice the difference between synthetic material and authentic leather. Fake leather materials are going to be cold, stretchy, snapping, easy to split and don’t last like genuine leather. Though, SensaTec is a few times more long-lasting than genuine leather. Real leather also has a great smell not common when it comes to SensaTec material. 
Benefits of SensaTec

  • Won’t stretch or wrinkle easily;
  • Easy to clean;
  • Premium look;

Drawbacks of SensaTec

  • Not very soft compared to genuine leather;
  • Won’t have the nice BMW leather smell;
  • Average breathability;


As a basic package, entry-level BMWs don’t get genuine leather. They have a fake leather named SensaTec instead. SensaTec plastic seats are standard unless a premium is charged for real leather or the BMW model is high up in the line.

It looks real enough, and it sounds decent enough, but it’s not real leather, and it’s definitely not as comfortable, soft or elegant as real leather. The key advantages are affordability and durability. It may last up to many years without the necessity to be replaced. Again, it’s vegan, so if you don’t want an actual cowhide upholstery in your BMW, consider picking SensaTec.

Dakota leather vs SensaTec leather

There are two types of leatherette seats used in entry-level BMW cars – Dakota and SensaTec. 

1) Properties of Dakota leather

A popular word in the fraternity of BMW cars is Dakota leather. It is a grain-corrected leather crafted from broken animal hides. Dakota leather is raw or true leather, but it is painted with plastic polymer paint and fake grains are embossed.

Due to the use of the synthetic polymer paint coating applied in the development phase, Dakota leather has a plastic texture. This makes it super shiny, even with the finish, making it more difficult for stains and dirt to wear. In contrast to full-grain leather and top-grain leather, it is quite convenient to clean.

2) Properties of SensaTec leather

SensaTec is a synthetic leather material built on vinyl and not animal-based, used on the base trims of certain lower-level versions. It’s not actual leather but rather designed to appear like real leather and sound like it. It is quite durable, has a nice grainy texture and almost fully biodegradable. 

What is the difference between these two leather seating options in BMW cars? 

The distinction is that SensaTec is made exclusively of synthetic vinyl fabrics, whereas Dakota is made of real leather extracted from actual animal skin. Also, SensaTec greatly outweighs the longevity and consistency of Dakota leather.  

Also, SensaTec is cheaper than Dakota leather when it comes to weight, and because Sensatec is solely crafted from synthetic materials. Dakota leather is crafted out of animal hides. In other terms, an animal needs to be sheltered, washed, medicated and may go through tanning procedures after the skin is collected.

Dakota, basically a natural leather, is usually of better consistency and toughness than synthetic leather. But it comes as no surprise that SensaTec’s hard-wearing efficiency is a rather appealing trait of consistency and longevity for many.

Since the top layer of SensaTec leather is sealed off during its finishing process, relative to Dakota leather, this style of leather renders it extremely stainless and water-resistant.

Unlike Dakota leather, SensaTec is not fully breathable.

All kinds of leather are finished with a safe finish and paint. Dakota and SensaTec, as opposed to full-grain leathers such as Nappa and Merino materials, are more water-resistant and durable options. 

Care and maintenance

It is better not to use a substance with oils, alcohol, or ammonia in them while taking care of artificial leather as SensaTec. All these components may damage the pleather lining. So it is better to pick a product that may protect the top layer and avoid the build-up of stains or discoloration.

The key purpose of SensaTec maintenance is to clean and preserve it from UV fading. 303 Multi Surface Cleaner Spray can be one of the best cleaning products, as it cleans easily and leaves no trace behind. Until you leap straight into cleansing the whole interior of your car, you may want to start cleaning a little, inconspicuous area first, just to be sure that the picked cleaner doesn’t remove colors that the vinyl holds or provide any other unforeseen effects.

For moderately stained seats, merely spray a soft mist on the surface to be washed, but thoroughly coating it, as well as a mist onto a microfiber towel. To build a lather, work the substance onto the surface in circular movements.

You should move on to the surface protection after you’ve finished the cleaning phase. For instance, you may use 303 Aerospace Protectant designed for synthetic leather seats like SensaTec. For example, the 303 Protectant would help maintain the vinyl looking fresh and natural whilst shielding it from UV rays and other pollutants causing damage. Simply spray it onto a microfiber and scrub it into the seat’s top layer. It is advised to use this approach vs. spraying it directly on the surface since you can get a more even application.

Final thoughts

SensaTec leatherette is not natural leather material – that is why entry-level BMW cars are more eco-friendly and easier to clean compared to more expensive leather options. Though it is a matter of choice and preference, SensaTec can be a great choice for you if you are looking for a BMW upholstery made of vegan leather. 

Steve Coltharp
Hello, my name is Steve and I’m an author of the blog “Leather Toolkits“. The beauty is in simplicity, so learn, train, and make your life maximally simple by creating things that will please people for many years. Let your hobby grow into something more and make this world brighter! Hope, in this blog you will find answers to all of your questions.

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