Flight model is worse IMO, but not terribly so. Speeds are limited, the maneuverability depends on it and is the greatest at 50% of max throttle. There's something approximating flight assist off setting from I-War, but the flight model stops compensating both linear motion and rotation, so the skill ceiling is higher. Intrasystem fast travel is pretty much LDS (about on the level of LDS grade 1 when it comes to dullness) with no autopilot and few quirks (slowdowns near planets, dropping out at anything but the lowest speed is in inadvisable, but should be tried at least once for the sound effects alone). Missions have no story whatsoever and are quite simple "kill an NPC", "kill X random NPCs from a certain faction", "transport/acquire some cargo" and so on. There are no colliding megafreighters dropping a lot of cargo, though, and that's a damn dealbreaker
I haven't tried piracy, but I think it's one of the weakest careers available.
Anyway, I find it worse and somewhat duller than I-War 2 (it's an Elite game, after all), but it's still ok.