Kaspersky has the most inclusive engine, with the largest signature database by far, especially for a free version. I'd rate Avira second. Avira has a unique feature in the regard that they do partial updates to signatures as much as eight times per day. I'd definitely choose one of those.
I beta test various anti-virus programs regularly, so have experience with all of them.
You're certainly entitled to that opinion punkncat, although I literally get paid to be a security researcher for a living. I've run most every AV known to mankind, at least the popular ones, in a sandbox and seen no such thing. They were implicated as being malicious for political reasons and the mere fact that they're HQ'ed out of Russia. Technically speaking, all AV's "phone home". They wouldn't be much of an anti-virus solution if they didn't, now would they?
Also, Avast is OK, too. The reason I suggested Kaspersky or Avira is because their free solutions include some advanced features that other AVs charge for.