The manager was particularly pleased with his side's defensive organisation and battling spirit in hanging on to the slender lead provided by Dwight Gayle's 19th-minute goal.
Benitez said: "The clear message to the players is they need to work as hard as they did and then use the quality we have.
"It was difficult for us because of the number of times they put balls into our box. We had to defend well as a team and everyone did their best to help.
"It's great to have a team who can go forward and score goals but you also need organisation and team spirit to get results.
"For me, it was a step forward in the confidence of the players because we now know we can win games with our forward play or by defending strongly.
"I expected a difficult game because what I knew of Bristol City and their manager is they know what they are doing and can change systems during a match.
"They play a lot of long balls and then look to play so it was important we dealt with that. I expect them to do well this season.
"Dwight Gayle is a clever footballer with good movement and he is a great finisher. We saw all those things and I am hoping he is a crucial player for us.
"The goal came from good movement and a very good pass. After taking the lead we knew it would be more difficult to keep a clean sheet but the players worked so hard to make sure it happen."
Gayle, a transfer target for City last summer, produced a classy volleyed finish from Mohamed Diame's defence-splitting pass to settle a high-energy contest that did credit to both teams.
He also hit a post with a brilliant second-half effort on the turn but on the balance of play City were worth a point.
They failed to get it because they ran into a brick wall in the shape of Newcastle's back-line, ably assisted by their more forward players.