This is precisely the issue I ran into with Yii. It's very opinionated, which is fine if it fits. In my case it didn't, and I ended up fighting against the framework.
I initially liked Yii, but quickly ran into issues.
First, the crud/authentication generators assume a certain site structure: if your project has a different structure, as mine does, the generators break. So you you miss out on one of the most attractive features.
Second, if you don't subscribe to the view that PHP is a good templating language you're out of luck - it's tricky to get 3rd party templates to play nicely with the Yii form system.
Third, they don't use IoC, and the alternatives add complexity. The event system is powerful, and the pseudo-mixin capability is pretty cool. But I'm not convinced that heavy reliance on these mechanisms for extensibility makes for clean, comprehensible code. And it does make testing harder: for database testing, for example, you end up spending a lot of time building fixtures and making sure your testing database and development database are in sync. In the end this is a question of style, but I prefer the Laravel approach. I think Laravel has found a good balance between flexibility, testability and convenience.
Fourth, as the OP says, there's that hard-to-define sense that coding in Laravel is simpler and more elegant. For example, Eloquent2 beats Yii's Active Record implementation hands-down, I feel. When I was playing with Yii I kept on thinking "this would be easier in Laravel".
I think Yii slogan needs to re-emphasize the high-performance claim (which has been stolen by Fabien Potencier for Symfony 2, even though it is a very slow framework) and appeal to coders who dislike "enterprise" frameworks that embrace complexity to feed their consulting business (hello ZF and SF2). Here's my suggestion:
"Yii is a high-performance component-based PHP framework best for practical developers to build high traffic web applications."
Note the "practical developer" reference, I picked that up from SamDark's Yii2 presentations.