Toyota’s Corolla — the best-selling car in the world, with over one million sold last year alone — is perhaps the definition of responsible automotive consumption.

It is small, yet roomy in both rows of seating. It sips fuel, producing 35+ mpg during its fall visit, and can still generate enough momentum to meet driving needs. This compact car delivers solid ride balance and handling attributes, without falling all over itself when leaned on. The small Toyota doesn’t cost a lot either, starting at only $21,520 in base L trim. And, it is stone reliable, rarely failing at anything, commanding high resale values at trade-in time, and rewarding owners with low ownership costs. With data reflecting more and more drivers who relish these traits over all others, what’s not to love about Mr. Dependable?

The Corolla platform is also expanding to include variants that will increase sales, as Toyota remains committed to cars/sedans of all sizes despite market forces reshaping what we drive. Toyota’s Camry mid-size sedan has been America’s best-selling car for decades, while the Corolla is number two this year as Honda’s Civic and Accord sales numbers have been hammered by chip shortages and other supply-side issues.

Close-up of the Apex’s front section. Tim Plouff

With no fewer than seven trim levels, (L, LE, XLE, XSE, SE, Apex, plus SE Nightshade) three powertrains, and three body styles, the Corolla seems perfectly situated to maximize sales opportunities in the dozens of countries where it is sold. The four-door sedan is most popular, while a five-door hatchback ($1,125 more) is gaining in popularity. A five-door Corolla Cross “tall wagon/small crossover” (starting around $24,000) flushes out the lineup with optional AWD, more cargo space, plus a hybrid version that is on sale now. Think of this model as a four-fifth scale RAV4 — aimed directly at Honda’s HR-V.

Toyota will also introduce a very sporty version of the Corolla late this year. The GR (Gazoo Racing) Corolla, starting at around $37,000, will feature a turbocharged three-cylinder engine making 300 horsepower running through a six-speed manual gearbox to a full-time AWD drivetrain. Available only in the hatchback body, this Corolla will attempt to ignite younger buyers accustomed to rally versions of Subaru’s WRX or high-performance versions of Honda’s Civic.

Along with the Supra sports coupe, (co-developed with BMW) as well as the Toyota 86 coupe, jointly developed with Subaru’s BRZ, the GR Corolla further extends Toyota’s broad-based efforts to appeal to all segments of the market — and especially the youth end of the market, where brand loyalty has traditionally been established.

Base Corolla power comes from a 139-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Next up is a 2.0-liter gas engine with 169 horsepower, while the hybrid models use the smaller gas engine mated to an electric motor for peak output of 194 horsepower. A CVT automatic is used in the majority of configurations, while a six-speed manual is also available on specific trims, like our Cement-colored Apex test car. EPA mileage estimates range from 28/36-mpg with gas engines all the way to 53/52 mpg with the Corolla Hybrid. Many Corolla Hybrid owners openly boast about consistent levels of 60 mpg fuel economy.

Wearing crisper detailing in the front fascia, with lean, small LED lamps tucked under the hoodline, plus a small front splitter and rocker panel skirting to increase visual excitement, our Apex sample rode on 18-inch alloy wheels. The “tuned exhaust” was pleasingly muted, as previous “sporty” Corolla’s produced a rather annoying engine note under the whip.

The Apex’s interior. Tim Plouff

Keyless access and ignition are part of Apex, yet all doors don’t unlock upon exiting. Android/Apple audio enhancements are included with the touchscreen, as are a smattering of electronic driving aids — like lane departure alert, dynamic radar cruise, pre-collision braking assist, and automatic high beams. Heated seating is an additional option at our $26,845 sticker price. Seat adjustments are manual as well, and the single-note horn didn’t scatter either errant turkeys or marauding deer during rural drives.

The Corolla’s engine is willing to spin, but the output is oriented more towards efficiency than power. A long-throw shifter with wide ratios reinforces that notion as both fifth and sixth gear — and often fourth gear — proved to be overdrive, fuel-sipping gears. With the current gas prices, that is virtuous right now.

Pleasing styling, comfortable space, and value-conscious performance at every level, the Corolla reflects Toyota’s commitment to quality. It isn’t as athletic as some other small cars, but apparently that isn’t necessary as it outsells every single competitor.

Toyota will introduce its home-market Crown lineup to America this winter. Replacing the Avalon, the Crown will come in multiple configurations like the Corolla, including a tall sedan. As usual, a hybrid model will be offered too.

Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles for more than 20 years.