I'm gonna have to agree with T34 with regard to the Catalina having the better built interior.
Which is the better overall boat...I'm not going anywhere near that argument.
We were shopping for a new boat last Spring and it was down to the Hunter 31 and the Catalina 309. In fact, I'd done the online virtual tour of the Hunter so many times over the winter that I was SURE that would be my choice. At that point I hadn't been on either boat.
'Saw the Hunter at the boat show and was let down by the interior. I'm a woodworker (by hobby) and cast a critical eye on joinery and materials. I saw all the sharp edges on the Hunter's interior, and a lot of veneers that may or may not have been real wood, and applied over what, I don't know. I couldn't tell if the fiddles were one piece or some kind of veneer on some kind of substrate.
We moved on and looked at the 309 at the dealer and chose it immediately. At first blush, the Catalina interior is less finished looking than the Hunter. Plain. BUT...in 12 years of use the Catalina's gonna look a LOT better than the Hunter. Those sharp Hunter corners and edges and veneers will get bumped and be nicked big-time. Fixable? The rounded, plainer edges on the Catalina will take impacts better (solid teak, too) and if the trim takes a good hit, it can be sanded out and easily refinished, as there is no stain in the wood to match (not as pretty as a rich stain, though). Re-apply a water based varnish and yer good to go.
Also, compare the doors on the two boats. Hunter is some kind of a veneer and mystery wood sandwich while the Catalina doors are solid teak, heavy panel doors. Totally refinishable and fixable. That's no accident...the decision must have been made on the doors to go solid, more expensive, and fixable, realizing that a lot of buyers are going to miss this advantage at the boat shows and yield to the glitzier Hunter. Yeah, we're talking production boat, not custom blue-water vessel, but it's easy to find whole pieces of teak throughout the Catalina interior. Lift up the lid on the 309 nav station and you'll see some really beefy looking solid teak, not ply.
The Hunter, IMHO exemplifies the adage: Beauty is only skin deep.
Shame on Catalina for not banging the drum a little more regarding the maintain-ability of their interiors. I recall a small reference to it somewhere in their literature, but easily missed. IMHO they've made some excellent choices for the boater who wants their pride and joy to shine down the road. Given the intense competition between the big three, and all the compromises that need to be made to keep prices reasonable, I think it was just plain gutsy of Catalina to go the simple and repairable route (but just a smidge dumb not to make sure that feature figures prominently in their sales campaign).