Outside of a relationship I commonly use cute when I wish to compliment a girl without appearing interested. This can either be because I want to tell her she is attractive without her concluding I am interested or because I wish to reciprocate a compliment. The other reason I may use cute is because of her personality, if she is geniunely adorable then cute is the word I will use to describe her.
i use cute depending on the situation if I think sexy or hot would inappropriate according to the girl I'm talkin to. but cute is deff not an insult if I call you cute then that means you have my respect as woman but I use sexy , hot etc. that means I'm not looking to get to know you.