Yup, I was flying one that early. Then I found out it couldn't hurt a fly so switched back to my Miranda.
The Runabout is basically just for the sake of having one. It serves no useful combat purpose. I have used it for data collecting though, and could also be used for Diplomacy missions, or if you want to go from say, ESD to DS9.
The biggest problem with the runabout is that weapon damage on them is halved (both energy weapons and torpedoes). If it weren't for that they might actually be viable to use, but when you only have 2 weapon slots and each slot is 50% damage, then you're really going to struggle.