Those car reviewers should try seeing some of the older cars and some of those that are still being sold in developing countries, such as my Toyota Revo. When you're used to exposed sheet metal, vinyl and brittle plastic, hard plastic will be a step up!
Good application of hard plastic (and car interior design in general) can be the difference between making the interior tasteful vs. making the car feel like a toy. It's something that may affect your choice between like models, but as you say I've (almost) never heard of anyone walk away from a purchase because they sat inside and thought "oh dear, hard plastic!!!"
Also, those car reviewers are guaranteed never to be seeing the car in a condition where it's been worn and aged. Give them 5 year old cars with dirty interior fabrics and leather that's been cracking apart, and watch them rave about plastics that instantly look new upon being wiped clean!
View my fuel log 2012 Mirage GLS 1.2 manual: 33.3 mpg (US) ... 14.1 km/L ... 7.1 L/100 km ... 40.0 mpg (Imp)