The Contessa was developed largely from the 1947-1961 Renault 4CV powertrain under license to Hino Motors. Offered in both coupe and sedan bodystyles, it replaced the Hino Renault, which was the Renault 4CV manufactured by Hino for Japan. It was adapted into a small pickup truck called the Hino Briska, but used a front engine and rear drive powertrain, while the Contessa used a rear engine and rear drive setup. The PC series coupé was designed by Giovanni Michelotti, while the second generation was longer and wider in both coupé and sedan bodystyles.
Unlike many cars found internationally of this time period, using rear drive and rear engined powertrains, the Contessa was water-cooled rather than air-cooled. The name contessa is Italian for a countess.