Fiat aimed for improved comfort and handling while developing the new Punto.
'We benchmarked the Peugeot 206 and Renault Clio in this respect,' said Giuseppe Perlo, vice president of product development. He said the Toyota Yaris was also looked at closely.
Fiat set up a dedicated team to road test the competitors and make assessments.
'We used a computer model which was developed with Porsche,' said Perlo.
'It gave us a precise understanding of the results of our experimental testing. It also allowed us to reproduce real-world circumstances,' said Paolo Massai, vehicle testing director.
The new Punto's road testing was carried out at seven test tracks in Europe and the USA, including the demanding Nurburgring race track in Germany.
'We did final back-to-back tests there, with Porsche and BMW as reference cars,' said Massai.