We had one of these Civics as a rental, and I was none too impressed by it. Here in Erie, PA the underside of the car seemed to hit everything the winter had to offer that it attempted to drive over. A car should be built on the understanding that the whole world is not desert smooth California, and most everyday drivers are not interested in learning to do the Tokyo Drift. The exhaust note sounds like there is a hole in the muffler or something. Maybe it was something hit by the low ground clearance, or Honda was trying to make mom's teenage son happy enough so he wouldn't have to bolt a fart can to it when she turned her head.
How much longer could Honda make that dashboard? For a little car, the thing seems to stretch all the way across the state of Texas, leaving you wonder where the front of the car really is. Even if I had the head of a tortoise, I couldn't stretch it enough to see the front.
The little blue sunburst lighting around the tachometer? Absolutely stupid. Then the digital speedo on the second story of the absurdly long dash? OK, I understand aerodynamics and a sharply sloped windshield are important for MPG. But this is just getting plain silly.
The way you start your post out makes me think you didn't really like Honda's even before this experience of renting the Civic. Your complaints are a stretch at best as to any real complaint of a car. Hitting everything on the road? The Civic has the same ground clearance of pretty much every small car in it's class. Did you physically look for anything damaged underneath by a careless "renter" that could have been dragging or closer to the ground? People abuse the heck out of rentals, especially lower end models. I've known a few people with Civics and have never heard any ground clearance complaints. To base you whole driving experience on a rental does not always give you a true experience of the car's potential.
As far as design aspects, the Civic is a pretty strange looking car overall. The large dash, as you put it, does make the cabin feel much larger than many of it's rivals. The lack of ability to see the hood is one thing I didn't like about driving it either, although I would have gotten used to it eventually. It is all about low drag though, and the reason these cars get into the 40's for mileage on the highway. I think these are marketed toward younger drivers, hence the weirdness factor. They are, however, the best when it comes to reliability and resale, and that is a fact, not an opinion.