I Splurged on Custom-Fitted Seat Covers, Here’s How They Turned Out

I Splurged on Custom-Fitted Seat Covers, Here’s How They Turned Out photo
I Splurged on Custom-Fitted Seat Covers, Here’s How They Turned Out photo

Sometimes I feel like the only car nerd I know who likes the idea of seat covers. I mean, being able to change part of your upholstery like a shirt? Come on, that's fun! But, I know, seat covers usually end up looking pretty janky.

I recently splurged on a set of slightly fancy made-to-order seat covers for my Honda Civic to see if they'd be any better.

Here's how a set of CalTrend tweed custom seat covers, which retail for about $200, look in my 2006 Civic Si two-door:

If you're interested, here's the site to check them out. I went ahead and bought these on my own after looking at many seat cover options. As of this writing, the company seems to be doing a very nice 35% off Mother's Day sale.

CalTrend Seat Cover Review and Road Testing

My review boils down to: Not exceptional, but pretty darn good. The value for money is there—universal seat covers at Wal-Mart are around $50 for a pair, and these are easily four times nicer than those (which I've also tried). A proper upholstery job would be far more expensive unless you have the time and talent to do it yourself (no small feat, we can talk about that another time).


CalTrend sent a flimsy plastic tool for tucking and shoving the cover behind plastic and between the cushions along with these covers. I didn't have much luck with it but also didn't really have trouble getting the covers where I needed them with my fingers. I'd rate installation as extremely easy except for my custom pillow part which I'll get into later. I did cut myself reaching under the seat, be careful, there are sharp bits down there!


CalTrend doesn't actually list the Civic Si as an application—only the lesser non-K-powered eighth-gen Civics. But the seats are the same. I know, Si seats have slightly different headrests and embroidery, but after studying pictures I'm convinced that the seat body is the same as an EX coupe from the same year. I called up the seat cover people, sent them pictures, and we agreed that CalTrend's pattern would work.


The fitment isn't perfect, but I have to say it seems to be improving with use. Initially, I was pretty disappointed with the shape of the covers. Even after a lot of pulling and twisting and tucking, there were still some sags and air poofs. But after sitting in them and helping them settle, those issues seem to be going away. The covers have now been on my seats for about 500 miles, and look better than they did when I first put them in. I'm hoping that trend continues because there are still a few sags and one annoying air poof at the back of the driver's seat.

The headrest treatment is interesting. the factory one is kind of an unusual U-shape, while the cover just makes it look flat. I never really cared for the stock one so I'm OK with this.

My Custom Butt Cushion Mod

My butt is simply not compatible with the stock eighth-gen Civic seat. I've tried many different cushions and even dropped a whopping $70-something on a fancy butt pad from Cushion Lab. It's very nice, but way too tall for this car—I could only use it if I was OK with driving by peering out the sunroof.

Now if I were able to commit, I'd dismantle the factory seat's lower cushion portion and re-foam it somehow to my liking. But a combination of timidness and laziness has thus far stopped me from attempting that—maybe next winter. In the meantime, I finally found a squishy pillow that is thin enough to sit on, and placed it on the driver's seat on top of the factory upholstery but under the cover.

Big pros and cons to this. As far as comfort goes, it totally worked! I spent eight hours on the highway and hours in race mode in the car last weekend and had zero butt pain. Without the pillow, the seat started to annoy me after about half an hour. But the downside is that when I get back off and the pillow re-expands, the driver's seat looks like a souffle. Oh well, this car was never going to win any shows anyhow. And how often am I looking at the driver's seat? Just to take these pictures, really.

Materials and Craftsmanship

The thickness of the CalTrend covers immediately impressed me. Stitching is also incredibly robust. While I've had off-the-rack seat covers rip simply while stretching them into place, I felt like my dog and I could play tug with these things and not damage them. And I love how the backs are black vinyl, it helps contribute to the old-school look I'm trying to achieve with this car.

The tweed looks great. <em>Andrew P. Collins</em>
The tweed looks great. Andrew P. Collins

The tweed fronts feel kind of coarse (like, well, tweed) which won't be for everyone but I like it. Overall, I think the build quality is the best feature of these covers. Top marks there.

Why I Picked the CalTrend Covers (in Grey Tweed)

I already mentioned that I find a stock eighth-gen Civic seat uncomfortable, and in a previous Project Car Diary entry I've talked about how mine are also a little ugly (weird stains, cig burns).

A racing seat would look and feel awesome, but I'm reticent to run one because this car has seat airbags and I don't want to disrupt the factory SRS. A good airbag system is one of the main advantages of driving an eighth-gen Civic over an older K-swapped one. Plus, stock seats are 100% compatible with stock seat belts, racing seats are not.

On an old (2000 or older) car, I wouldn't think twice about ditching the factory seat for a cooler unit from Sparco, Recaro, or another reputable brand. But on a more modern vehicle where the seat is an integrated part of the airbag system, I don't know if I'd mess with it. And while OEM seats are crash-tested, racing seats may or may not be.

If you're running a full race safety system, with a cage, and a proper harness, and a window net, and all that ... that's one thing. But "system" is a keyword there. Just plopping a racing seat or steering wheel in place of something that had an airbag in it feels like a big sacrifice to me.

I'm also not ready to spend the time or money to do proper seat upholstery on this machine, so I've tried a few different cheapo covers and always felt they were "OK but not quite right."

I landed on CalTrend specifically after finding some old forum posts singing its praises and looking at a few seat cover brands at last year's SEMA show. My first instinct on design was to go with a red insert on suede, but feared that'd look like I was trying too hard to make the interior Type R-ish. Grey, I figure, goes nicely with the rest of the car's interior without calling too much attention to itself. And the tweed just seemed cool to me.

For the price, I'm happy with how these turned out. I even like the grey insert look a lot better than the all-black stock upholstery. Maybe someday I'll reskin the seats properly, but these CalTrend units suit the car pretty well and I'm glad I was able to integrate my stupid little butt pillow in a slightly classy way.

I won't tell you I look at these seat covers and think the car's got custom upholstery. But it's an improvement over worn seats and even helped increase my interior comfort a smidge.

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