Right now in the U.S. you can step into a brand new BMW for just under $30,000--for Mercedes-Benz the entry-point creeps a few thousand dollars higher--but in the next couple of years we should be seeing a range of more affordable models from both of the luxury stalwarts.

That’s because both automakers are working on a new generation of compact cars that will take them into territory never treaded before by either brand here in the U.S. Mercedes-Benz is working on a successor for its B-Class model sold overseas, while BMW is planning to launch its first front-wheel drive model.

Overseas the cars are described as UKL models, a German abbreviation for lower-compact-class, and in congested urban environments they sell in relatively strong numbers. Here, they will be introduced to help Mercedes-Benz and BMW meet toughening fuel economy and emissions standards, while also catering to the growing numbers of U.S. customers looking to downsize to much smaller luxury cars.

The key difference between the incoming new generation of luxury compacts and the cars of old is that there will be plenty of new bodystyles to choose from instead of just the typical econo hatch. Things like sporty coupes, four-door sedans and even a crossover or two are all on the cards for both Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

BMW’s models, of which there are expected to be three, will arrive before the launch of the Megacity electric vehicle in 2013 and will initially be available with a four-cylinder engine. All will be smaller than the current 1-Series range.

Mercedes-Benz plans to bring over its next-generation B-Class, which will be available for the first time in a compact SUV bodystyle, as well as sporty coupe and possibly sedan bodystyles. A high-performance AMG variant is also planned. One thing’s for certain, Mercedes-Benz plans to drop the B-Class name once the cars hit local showrooms. 

Eventually, both automakers also plan to launch alternative powertrains in their respective entry-level models. Either way, it looks like stepping into a brand new luxury vehicle is about to get a whole lot easier. 

[Automotive News, sub req’d]