I am also encountering this issue in the latest version (EA version on Steam).
Galaxy Size: Large
Number of Sectors: Several
Civilization Proximity: Distant
I tried to create a new game several times with different opponent numbers, ranging from 12 to 22. When opponent number was set to 22, I've started only once in a small sector with 4 others; most of the time everyone simply started in the same big sector.
When there are less opponents, it seems to work a bit better. But if that number is high, it feels like the game just ignores starting options.
What I'm trying to create by the way is a galaxy where there are roughly equal number of players in each sector; maybe even one or two is just empty, depending on the number of sectors.
Any feedback is much appreciated.