The 2011 Sonata has been a smash hit for Hyundai, already selling about 100,000 copies and winning near-flawless praise from auto reviewers. Yet many owners are now turning into D.I.Y. greasemonkeys thanks to the world's weakest horn.
In the largest Hyundai owner's forum, more than 120 people have written in with complaints and tips about the Sonata's single-disc horn, which has been unfavorably compared to a moped, bicycle horns and the Road Runner, and deemed by one owner to be less efficacious at in-traffic communication than his middle finger.
Another user described his moment of sonic horror:
"Used my horn today for the first time. So embarrassing...Wish I had my windows tinted already so I could have hidden in shame."
With calls and complaints to Hyundai earlier this year produced no action, the wisdom of crowds orchestrated its own fix. Forum posters laid out detailed instructions for upgrading to a more robust unit; the mods aren't that difficult, but require removing the Sonata's grille and splicing wires, not the kind of work a typical midsize appliance sedan owner signs up for.
Several have debated the best replacement, with the Fiamm El Grande appearing to be the consensus winner for sound, a $19 price and kick-ass name.
There's also been a side debate about whether the weak horn is dangerous. Eight owners have filed safety complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, saying the stock horn is so weak they can't be heard in traffic.
...Cannot count the times a short horn blast saved my a** from being hit or worst . 45 years in the auto field and I have never heard such a wippie unsafe horn tone & volume. You can bet this will be addressed at some point.
It's surprising that the Sonata would be so deficient, given that Hyundai knows something about building big horns. After telling one customer earlier this year that "there are no plans to re-design the horn at this time," Hyundai has changed course. Spokesman Dan Bedore told Jalopnik: "We have heard customer feedback on the horn. We are taking steps to change the horn mid-model year. Starting with September 1st production, we will implement a new dual shell type horn."