Our 2011 Design Crush: The Fiat 500

They're already old news in Europe, having hit the market a year or so ago, but we're predicting U.S. style-setters are about to develop an automotive crush unequaled since the Mini. With its red-hot Italian styling, the new Fiat 500 is an enticing option for 2011 if you're not planning to link yourself to Houston's forthcoming plug-in-electric charging network. An introductory sticker price around $15,000, and high gas mileage earned the old fashioned way (via a small and lightweight frame), should seal the deal. Or you can wait until the electric version hits in 2012 for style AND emissions-free driving fun.

Like our beloved Volkswagens before them, the American 500s will reportedly be built in Mexico, so maybe you should start planning now for the road trip to go pick yours up. It's the Texas version of the fly-to-Germany-to-pick-up-your-Mercedes pilgrimage.

It's an update of a beloved vintage Italian classic, the late-1950s cinquecento, so driving a 500 may make you feel a bit like you're an extra in a Fellini movie. La dolce vita, indeed.

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Jenny Staff Johnson