Should cars have a startup sound like a computer?

The roar of the internal combustion engine will soon go extinct
by Ollie Kew | Jul 2, 2022
PHOTO: TopGear.com

Whether you start your car with a key, a button, or one of those clever new bum sensors that awakens the vehicle the second arse meets seat, the next thing that happens is usually an audible cue. Start a car, it makes a noise, right? But what noise should that be? 

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I haven’t gone completely mad, again. Thing is, I was driving a Kia this week. A couple in fact. One was a Ceed, and if I think very hard indeed I can almost remember what color it was. Blue, or maybe yellow. Then there was a Stinger, a great big friendly torque-rich bear-hug of a car, with a charmingly floppy chassis and tail-happy balance under its fabulously comfy air-conditioned seats.

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Kias jingle merrily when you turn them on. For a few years now, they’ve played a little tune when you wake them up, and a slightly different ditty when they’re switched off. The one in the Ceed sounded like my washing machine when it’s finished whirring and calls out polyphonically to be emptied.

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That fits nicely: the Ceed is an appliance, as loveable as a Zanussi. But the Stinger sounds like the theme music to an overly smiley daytime TV chat show, and it drowns out the gruff V6 bursting into life. And that’s less appropriate.

It got me thinking though: as we plunge into a new era of electrified cars which no longer wake up the neighborhood with a petrol or diesel engine spluttering and snorting, what sort of noise should your car make when it says hello?

Lots of EVs currently make some sort of sci-fi whoosh to let you know they’ve come online. Audis still do a slightly cringeworthy ‘lub-dub-dub-dub’ heartbeat noise when they’re turned off, as if your pulse has been set racing by all the angry tailgating you’ve just been up to.

It’s all a bit serious and self-conscious. How about a 'cock-a-doodle-doo' cockerel call when the car starts if it’s before 6am, and the music from the end of a Looney Tunes cartoon?

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All I’m saying is if you’ve got the ability to overlay any song or sound effect you like onto your Instagram story or TikTok, car manufactures could also show a bit of the same creativity once they’ve no longer got all those complicated engines and gearboxes to design and test.

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NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: TopGear.com
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