The sectors where big but felt small.. nothing's in them aside from a few stations
Well... space is mostly empty. And if you had some kind of jump-gate technology, why wouldn't you group everything pretty close together around the gate? Spreading things out just for the sake of it would make no sense.
I'm not saying you don't have legitimate qualms with the atmosphere or gameplay (lots of people find the sectors to be all much of a muchness), but I'm not sure how much water this particular argument holds.
Sounds like you're not looking for an X game, at any rate.